Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - A Research Problem and Lessons Learned

Calling all Genea-Musings Fans: 

 It's Saturday Night again - 
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!): 

1)  Think back to when you first started doing genealogy and family history research.  What was one of your first real research problems?  How did you attack the problem?  Did you solve the problem?  If so, how?  What lessons did you learn from this experience?

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

Here's mine:

When I started my genealogy research in 1988, I had a lot of help.  My father's brother and four sisters were very happy, and provided family stories and some papers to help me.  One of their stories was that "Our mother, Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (1882-1962) was descended from Peregrine White, the baby born aboard the Mayflower in 1620."

Right!!  I'd been warned already about family legends.  What should I do first?  Find descendants of Peregrine White, or find ancestors of Alma Bessie Richmond, my grandmother?  The family papers said that Alma's mother was Juliette White (1848-1913), born in Killingly, Conn., so that gave me a lead.

I started my research at the San Diego Family History Center looking for entries in the IGI and the Ancestral File for Juliette White, and found nothing.  I did find an entry for Julia White (age 3) in the 1850 U.S. census in Killingly, Conn, daughter of Henry and Amy White.  Was that the right Julia/Juliet?  

My Aunt Marion sent me an obituary of Juliet, which said her mother's maiden name was Oatley.  An Oatley surname book said that Amy Oatley married Henry White and had Julia, who married Thomas Richmond and listed Bessie Alma as a daughter...progress!  I worked for several more years at the FHC trying to nail down the White line back from  Henry White (1824-1885) to Jonathan White (1804-1850) to Humphrey White (1758-1814) to Jonathan White (1732-1804).  I found lots of data, but no positive link, until I found this article:

Ruth Wilder Sherman, "Some Descendants of Jonathan White of Dartmouth MA and of Humphrey White of Glocester RI," The American Genealogist, Volume 56, Pages 113-118.

This article took my White line back (confirming my links from Henry) to Jonathan White (1732-1804) of Dartmouth, Mass., son of William White (1708-1780), which linked him to a White line from Peregrine White in the book:

Lucy Mary Kellogg (editor), Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume 1: Family of Francis Eaton, Family of Samuel Fuller, Family of William White (Boston, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975).

The line back to the Mayflower in the book is from William White (1708-1780) to William White (1683-1780) to Sylvanus White (1667-1688) to Peregrine White (1620-1704) to William White (ca 1590-1621).  

I was happy to report to the family at a 50th anniversary party for my Uncle Edward Seaver in September 1990 that the legend was true.  

Yes, all of this work was done in published books and periodical articles with source citations, so it wasn't original research on my part by any stretch of the imagination.  But when you are just starting out, finding resources like these are a godsend, and they lead you to original source material.  Subsequently, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has published a book for descendants of William White:

Robert S. Wakefield (editor), Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume 13: Family of William White (Boston, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997).

Since then (over the past 23 years), I have gathered quite a bit of supportive evidence for each White family - especially probate records, land records and vital records, that satisfies me that this line is correct.  

I kept a fairly detailed, handwritten, research log on this family from 1988 to was really useful to me today as I tried to piece this story together.  This White family is one of the families that I have created an organized surname book for to date - I easily found all of the resource material and my research log!  I need to do more of the organized surname books, I see!

The lessons learned:

*  Work backwards in time from known persons and data to unknown persons and data, one generation at a time.

*  Find and use published works (if available) to help you find clues to earlier generations.  Review the source citations (if available) to confirm the published material.

*  Keeping a research log for each family or family line is really helpful 25 years can see what resources were found, the conclusions drawn, and the results obtained.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Surname Saturday - BARRON (Ireland > colonial Massachusetts)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  

I am in the 7th great-grandmothers, up to number 583: Mary BARRON (1673-1758). [Note: the earlier great-grandmothers and 7th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts].

My ancestral line back through three American generations of this BARRON family line is:

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)

8. Frank Walton Seaver (1852-1922)
9. Hattie Louise Hildreth (1857-1920)

18.  Edward Hildreth (1831-1899)
19.  Sophia Newton (1834-1923)

36.  Zachariah Hildreth (1783-1857)
37.  Hannah Sawtell (1789-1857)

72.  Zachariah Hildreth (1754-1828)
73.  Elizabeth Keyes (1758-1793)

144.  Zachariah Hildreth (1728-1784)
145.  Elizabeth Prescott (1734-1812)

290.  Jonas Prescott (1703-1784)
291.  Elizabeth Harwood (1701-1739)

582.  Nathaniel Harwood, born 01 October 1669 in Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died 28 August 1751 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He was the son of 1164. Nathaniel Harwood and 1165. Elizabeth.  He married about 1695 in Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.

583.  Mary Barron, born 01 March 1672/73 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died 08 October 1758 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  
Children of Nathaniel Harwood and Mary Barron are:  Mary Harwood (1696-????); Hannah Harwood (1698-????); Elizabeth Harwood (1701-1739); Rachel Harwood (1703-1784); Sarah Harwood (1707-????); Jonathan Harwood (1710-1784); Susanna Harwood (1713-????).

1166.  Moses Barron, born 01 March 1642/43 in Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died 25 April 1699 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He married before 1669 in probably Chelmsford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.
1167.  Mary Learned, born 07 August 1647 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; died in  ????.  She was the daughter of 2334. Isaac Learned and 2335. Mary Stearns.
Children of Moses Barron and Mary Learned are:  Moses Barron (1669-1719); Isaac Barron (1671-1739); Mary Barron (1673-1758); John Barron (1677-1678); Samuel Barron (1679-1751); Elliseus Barron (1682-1715); William Barron (1685-????); Joseph Barron (1688-1759).

2332.  Ellis Barron, born about 1600 in Waterford, Ireland; died 30 October 1676 in Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.  He married before 1631 in probably Ireland.
2333.  Grace, died after 01 March 1642/43 in Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States.
Children of Ellis Barron and Grace are:  Mary Barron (1631-1716); Ellis Barron (1633-1712); Susanna Barron (1635-????); Hannah Barron (1637-1680); John Barron (1638-1693); Sarah Barron (1640-????); Moses Barron (1643-1699).

I have these resources for the Barron families:

*  Patty Barthell Myers, Ancestors and Descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with related families, based partially on the work of Freeman Worth Gardiner and Willis Freeman (Camden, Me.: Penobscot Press, 1995), page 482.

*  Eugene Diven Buchanan, "The Ellis Barron Family," The American Genealogist, Volume 20, number 2 (October 1943). 

*  Dean Crawford Smith, edited by Melinde Lutz Sanborn, The Ancestry of Eva Belle Kempton, 1878-1908, Part I: The Ancestry of Warren Francis Kempton (1817-1879) (Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1996), pages 119 to 131.

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Friday, April 26, 2013

Family Tree Builder 7.0 Software Synchronization with MyHeritage Family Tree - Post 1

MyHeritage released the FREE Family Tree Builder Version 7.0 genealogy software last week (see my post MyHeritage Releases Family Tree Builder 7.0 - New Features are Sync System and Record Matches).  

One of the NEW features in the Family Tree Builder 7.0 software was the ability to synchronize ("sync") with a user's MyHeritage Family Tree - meaning a user can change something online in their MyHeritage Family Tree, or change something in the FTB software, and click on the "Sync" button in FTB 7.0 to make the MyHeritage Family tree data match the Family Tree Builder software data. Heritage described the sync feature this way:

"All family tree information is synchronized, including photos, videos, audio files, notes, sources, citations and other information, except private information such as DNA markers which never leaves the user’s computer. The family history data can now be privately and securely viewed, edited and expanded from any device - the user’s computer, the user’s online family site on MyHeritage – or via the free MyHeritage mobile apps for iPad, iPhone and Android. Users have full control of who can be granted permission to view or add information. The new sync system also provides a backup of the users’ precious data."

I was one of the Beta testers for this feature, and determined that it worked, but did not write about it at the time.  Now I can write about it, and I believe that no other genealogy blogger (other than the MyHeritage folks) have written about it in much detail.  

I want to cover the Sync feature in two posts - this is the first.

1)  To start with, here is a screen shot from my MyHeritage Family Tree (Seaver-Leland Family) for the profile for Samuel Vaux:

Note that his Birth date is shown as "Before Feb 11 1816," his Death date is shown as "After 1880," and his Death place is shown as "probably Marshall, Kansas, United States."

Since I found his birth and death dates on Find A Grave two months ago, I want to edit those dates and places to the correct information.  I could do it right in my MyHeritage Family Tree, but I want to see how it works with Family Tree Builder 7.0 software.  My plan is to enter the data into FTB 7.0 and then try to "Sync" the modified FTB tree with the MyHeritage Tree.

2)  I opened the Family Tree Builder 7.0 software and made sure that the "Seaver-Leland Family" tree file was loaded.  Here is the FTB screen showing Samuel Vaux (maternal grandfather of Abbie Ardell Smith):

I clicked on the name "Samuel Vaux" and the Profile Page opened (on the Info tab):

This Profile Page shows the same information for Samuel Vaux's Birth and Death events.  It also looks to me that it is almost identical to the Samuel Vaux Profile Page on MyHeritage (first screen above).

3)  I need to Edit his Birth and Death information, and I want to add a Burial event also, with a photo of the gravestone.  I clicked on the "Events" tab on the screen above and saw the list of Events I had for Samuel Vaux:

In order to add or edit content, I clicked on the "Add / edit events" link on the line "Events in Samuel's life" on the screen above.  The screen for adding or editing all Facts appeared:

4)  I edited the Birth date, changed that date to "Exactly," then edited the Source citation information, and added the gravestone Photo.  I did the same process for the Death Event, and then added a new event for Burial, with the same information (except for using "After" for the burial date.  Here is the bottom of the Add / Edit Events screen:

I was finished, so I clicked on the blue "Save & close" button and was back to the Person Profile Info tab with the edited and added information displayed:

The revised Birth and Death data is shown on the screen above.  Note that there are three photos of the gravestone on the "Info" tab - that's because I uploaded the photo three times - for the Birth, death, and Burial Events.  I saw no way to link more than one Event to a given Photo.  Maybe I missed something there?

5)  I wanted to see if the changes were reflected in the Family Tree Builder Tree, so I clicked on the "Tree" button (in the top menu row of the software), and saw:

The changes did not show up in the Family Tree Builder tree for some reason.  I looked on MyHeritage, and the changes were in the online tree.

From what I can tell, I believe that, when the database in Family Tree Builder software is linked to a  MyHeritage Family Tree, the editing and adding of content is performed in the MyHeritage Family Tree.

I will look at the actual Sync between the online MyHeritage Family Tree and my Family Tree Builder 7.0 database in the next post in this series.  Will it work?  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Disclosure:  I have a complimentary PremiumPlus subscription to MyHeritage, which I greatly appreciate.  This does not affect my objectivity in these reviews.

Follow-Up Friday - Interesting and Helpful Reader Comments

It's Friday, so time to follow-up on interesting and helpful reader comments made in the last week.  

1)  On Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations (23 April 2013):

*  bgwiehle noted:  "Not sure how consistently it occurs, but I sometimes get the 'too many results' page if the minimum 3 letters with a wild card includes a letter pair/combo that is a single sound (th, sh, sch, etc). Maybe vowel pairs like 'ea' are being treated similarly."

My comment:  I'll look into that.  Interesting suggestion.

*  Eileen said:  "My personal frustration is with exact search. I can put in a full surname and lived in location and restrict both to exact and it comes back with zero results. I can then set the location to default and get thousands of results, many of which are at the location specified and spelled the same. So why did I get zero results. I used to do this all the time to restrict my results to a single state. I wish they would stop 'improving' things."

My comment:  Can you provide a specific example that I can check out?  "Improving things" is something that every company tries to do on a persistent basis to stay ahead of the competition.

*  Anonymous commented:  "I've sworn off trying to do anything useful on Ancestry for a couple of months, or at least until they fix all the unintended consequences they have created with all the unwanted changes they've crammed down user's throats recently."

*  Unknown offered:  "One inconsistency I find is that Ancestry (I use the UK site) throws out variations of a name - but not all matches of those variations. 

"For example, I recently did a search for a Golesworthy - often mis-spelled as Goldsworthy.  Along with Golesworthy I got a lot of Goldsworthy returns - but not the one I needed. It *had* been entered under the mis-spelling, but Ancestry hadn't listed it, even though the date and place of birth matched. It *had* listed a lot of others, where the dob / place were completely different. This can be really confusing for amateurs like myself!"

My comment:  The results are often confusing for professionals also!  

*  Barbara Snow commented:  "I too have been irked by the problems with I've practically given up teaching people in my class how to search it. And untangling the long long list of ranked results is so time consuming. I feel like I spend about half my time on Ancestry trying to outwit the challenges it gives me. I appreciate your specific and well documented examples of some of the many problems."

My comment:  That's why I usually use the "Summarized by Category" view when I do a global search for a specific name.  I teach to do the global search, then narrow the search using an estimated birth date and a known birthplace, and then a spouse's first name if appropriate.  Then pick and choose the record collections listed.

*  Geolover noted:  "I, too have had problems with recent changes in the search protocol, including from trees. The results constantly are for wrong names, places and dates placed at the top, supposedly "Sorted By Relevance."

"In Firefox20, on Win7 running as 32-bit, I tried 'Isa* Sea*' on the purported home-page global search form (not advanced search).  I got 20,257,838 results. 'Sorted By Relevance,' the top item was the 1940 US Census enumeration for Abel Cruz De Seatrajo (what happened to the 'Isa*'? Some user had submitted "Isabel" as an alternate).

"The next few results were various 1940 US Census items for various Isabels with Sea* surnames.  So your problem with this particular search might be browser-related, but I could not guess why."

My comment:  Thanks for trying... interesting results too!  I wonder why the alternate name matches always show up at the top of the list.  Perhaps it's alphabetical on surname?

*  Desta Elliott said:  "Ancestry search seems to rely on producing thousands of 'hits'--by ignoring search parameters. I can put in name, birth, death dates, locations, gender, and restrict to US records. Results are from all/any dates, all/any locations, and non-US sites. If I search for Abraham Lincoln, I'll get a hit on a record that contains the word Abraham and Lincoln, anywhere on the page. The preview window often reveals that the names are not connected. I wish I could eliminate search results...say my ancestor is not related to Massachusetts records; why can't my results suppress those hits as you can in a Google search? Can't the searches return hits based on proximity? So, find only 'Abraham Lincoln' or 'Lincoln, Abraham'? The stars set by ancestry are useless. If I set the death year as 1865, let's skip all 20th century hits. All those Reno, Nevada newspaper hits and high school yearbook pictures.

"In the realm of dreams, I wish we could sort records by field....I swear this used to possible. So, in a list of, say, census records, I could sort so that all VA hits would be sort together. 

"I am curious, does anyone really search 2000 records? Yet, I worry that, buried, 1600 records down is the one I want.  Now, if we could suppress all those useless Family Data Collections...."

*  Anonymous ranted:  "Ancestry gets away with such shoddy service because they are a monopoly and they essentially have no competition - and they know it. The bean-counters running the company now know there's nowhere else for you to go.

"For now... for now... FamilySearch is coming up fast now, though... and I for one will cheer when they put Ancestry out of business in a few short years.'

My comments:  An interesting set of views here!  Thank you all for trying to help with my "isa* sea*" problem.  

2)  On Sorting Out Ancestry Global Search Matches (24 April 2013):

*  Linda Schrieber said:  "I hadn't explored the 'by categories' sort, and this may help a lot!"

*  herzogm commented:  "I guess I am a real Luddite, but as long as 'old search' is available, I'll stick to it. I can get the results I am looking for with a couple of clicks and don't have to go through all the manipulations that you are talking about."

*  Barbara Renick noted:  "I believe Ancestry searches max out at less than ten thousand matches viewed so there is not a way to look at 287,224 matches online. FamilySearch Record Search maxes out at 5,000 matches viewed. Database sites do this to limit server time used. And, yes, I'm sure we are missing something we would like to find deeper which is why I teach alternate ways to search to find those layers."

My comment:  I refuse to test out what Barbara said...10,001 matches checked would take almost 28 hours at 10 seconds per match.  But it's intriguing!

3)  On Response from on my Wild Card Search Frustrations (25 April 2013):

*  Jay at 1FamilyTree said:  "Randy, I get really frustrated when I hear (or read) comments like 'The logged in home page was one of the slowest pages on the site and was still talking to outdated systems, limiting our ability to make improvements.'  SORRY, but companies that cater to the small percentage of persons who are on older systems are not only hampering their own growth, but the growth of all their other users!!!"

My comment:  Jay, I'm not sure of she was relating to customers with old computer systems or to old systems within the Ancestry complex.  If the former, based on my observations of genealogy computer users in my local societies, it seems to me that the majority of potential Ancestry customers are still using Windows XP and earlier. 

*  Anonymous noted:  "Randy, you're much too easy on them. They're feeding you a pile of BS."

*  On Facebook, Janice Brown commented:  "Randy,'s response may satisfy you, but it does not satisfy me at all. still has it wrong. They need to scale their web site for the least sophisticated searcher, and stop trying to pump up the 'hits' one gets in a search and instead make the hits you do get relevant. The OLD search prompts worked wonderfully. The new ones are horrible."

My comment:  I am not enough of a computer wizard to know what is BS or not.  I didn't say I agreed with or was satisfied with it, only that I appreciated the response, the workaround suggestions, and would use them.  

4)  On adds Record Matches and Smart Matches (24 April 2013):

*  Saskey noted:  "I, too, have the 'Basic' Geni account. It displays matches, however, if I wish to examine matches including trees, or contacting the associated person, Geni invites me to purchase a subscription. So, I gather that Geni takes the data I uploaded for free, and charges other users to access and use that information; however, if I wish to see what they have done with my information, I have to pay. Do I have that correct?"

My comment:  I'm not sure, you'd have to ask  You also should read their Terms of Conditions about what they can do with your information.

*  Linda Schrieber said:  "I tried, briefly. Luckily, I just added a few deceased people as a test. Then I really explored the site.  And, yes, you upload your data 'for free', and they charge other users to access it, and they can't contact you without paying. And if you want to see what the others have done, you have to pay. 

"If you really want a wild ride, check out their on-site complaints. Someone adds living children to another person's tree, and the tree 'owner' can't remove them 'without paying', and sometimes not even then. Many, many, many similar problems.... 

"And trying to contact tech support through their own system sends you into an endless loop of 'click here' screens. It literally loops back, after a dozen or so attempts, and you start over. 

"Trying to get help through the forums is interesting.... No one from the company seems to pay any attention. There are long strings of truly valid problems and complaints, and serious problems, and they just let us vent to each other.... Finally, messages like **Is anyone from Geni listening??** get no response. No other contact with Geni seems to be available.

"I avoid Geni like the plague. Everything I have seen is disreputable."

My comment:  Interesting, and disheartening.  Genealogy companies need to mind their customer relations and be responsive.  I know that I'm lucky when I get quick responses from the companies because of my blog posts.  

*  Geolover commented:  "I love it when you post transcripts of estate inventories!  The word following "Loom" on line 7 is probably "Tacklin" (or maybe "taclin"). The "tackling" was the equipment associated with the loom: especially heddles and reeds, but perhaps also shuttles that bore the crosswise yarns to interlace them, and spare parts (such as harnesses and later, temples that held part of the fabric to full width)."

*  T asked:  "OH HAPPY DAY!!!! Samuel Wilbore and Mary potter are my ancestors!! May I use your research on my family tree at If so, how would you like to be credited?"

My comment:  T - thank you for asking!  Most readers don't... Yes you may use my data on your Ancestry Member Tree.  You don't have to ask permission to use names, dates, places, etc.  Note also that my probate transcription is subject to revision and correction.  If you want to use the Probate Records I posted, then I recommend that you create a Story for the probate records, copy and paste the information into the Story, and put in big red letters that the information was provided by Randy Seaver in,  include the source I provided, and note that that permission was granted to use the information.  

Thank you all for the comments this week - there were more, but this post got pretty long.  

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Modifying Data in FamilySearch Family Tree Using RootsMagic 6

I've written previously about adding information to a person in FamilySearch Family Tree using the RootsMagic program.  

Since I found birth and death dates for Samuel and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux on Find A Grave memorials, I needed to edit the information in the FamilySearch Family Tree for those events.  I also wanted to add the census events and the burial event to both of them in the Family Tree.

At this time, RootsMagic 6 is the only FamilySearch certified genealogy program that can add data directly into the Family Tree.   Here is the process I used to add event data for Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux:

1)  Unfrortunately, I did not make a "Before" screen from the FamilySearch Family Tree for Mary Ann (my bad, sorry!).

2)  In RootsMagic 6, here is the Family View for this family:

On the line with the person's name, there is a Family Tree icon on the right side of that line.

3)  Clicking on the Family Tree icon for Mary Ann Underhill opens the FamilySearch Person Tools page for that person (assuming the user has a FamilySearch account and has added the login credentials to RootsMagic):

A careful look at the list above shows that the Birth, Death, Burial and Census Events on the RootsMagic Person list on the left (in the RootsMagic database) are NOT the same as in the Family Tree Person list on the right.

4)  I can add the event data in RootsMagic to the Family Tree.  If I click in the RootsMagic Person box for the BIRTH event, a popup box asks "What do you want to do with this fact?"  For the Birth and Death Facts, I want to replace the information in Family Tree so I select that line in the popup box:

I did the same thing for the Death Fact, and then added the Burial Fact and the three Census Events that I had in RootsMagic to the FamilySearch Family Tree.  Each Event changed or added took about 20 seconds to complete, so this is not an instantaneous process.

5)  When I was finished changing the two Facts and adding the four Facts,, the RootsMagic window for FamilySearch Person Tools page shows those items completed in the FamilySearch Person list:

Unfortunately, these changes or additions have to be made one event at a time using RootsMagic.  At present, there is no method to upload a set of people to the Family Tree by pressing one button (like with a GEDCOM file). I could add information in FamilySearch Family Tree manually if I choose to.  But I might miss something, or make a keyboard error.  Using RootsMagic makes it pretty easy to do and what goes into Family Tree is exactly what's in RootsMagic.

6)  I then went to the FamilySearch Family Tree and navigated to Mary Ann Underhill's profile.  Here are two screens that show the information was edited or added:

On the right side of the Person Profile is a box titled "Latest Changes."  Clicking on the "More" link in that box shows me the latest changes made (two screens):

As you can see, this Change Log shows that I changed the Birth and Death event data, and added the Burial and three Custom Events (census records) today.

7)  The next challenge is to add all of my sources for these Events.  I'll have to do that in the FamilySearch Family Tree itself, using the Source Box in FamilySearch and the Record Seek tool to add other source citations.

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Response from on my Wild Card Search Frustrations

In my post Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations on Tuesday, I described my frustration over some wild card searches don't work on and wondered why.  

I received an email yesterday from Matt Deighton at (Specialist, Public Relations)  with a note from Katherine Nester (Director, Product Management) that explains what is happening:

Dear Randy,

We recently read your blog post and wanted to send you a quick note to clarify a few things and thank you for the feedback on the changes to the search functionality on the logged in home page. We have made changes and will be continuing to make changes to both increase the performance of the site and to begin to build a service that works for both the new user to and the seasoned genealogist. As Tim mentioned at RootsTech, making the site work for both groups is a focus for us this year. 

The logged in home page was one of the slowest pages on the site and was still talking to outdated systems, limiting our ability to make improvements. The recent changes, including the search form, improve the performance and enable us to evolve the experience to address our different audiences.  We wanted to get the performance improvements out as quickly as we could and additionally start getting feedback from our users, like yourself. This feedback will help us continue to tailor and evolve the experience so that it works well for both audiences and we very much appreciate your use cases and ideas.

In regards to the problem you have previously reported to us on the wild card searches, we have researched this issue and defined a solution. The reason your search does not work in the Category view is due to the extra server-side complexity of the wildcard query combined with sorting for such a broad result set.  (Note that it does work in the Relevance view.) That’s  a current limitation of our search system which is querying 30,000+ collections with 11 billion records representing terabytes of unique field data. We realize that this type of feature is beneficial to our users, which is why it is on our list of search functionality to improve as we make adjustments to our product experience. 

Here are 2 suggested workarounds:

1. Alter your search such that your wildcard produces a slightly more narrow result: isa* s?v?r   -or-  isa* seav*  -or-   isa* sea*r

2. Switch to the Relevance view before doing your search, then use the “Narrow by Category” functionality to get into a specific category, THEN you can switch back into the Summarized by Category view.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and welcome addition comments you have that can help us better understand your experience with the site.

Best regards,
Katharine Nester
Director Product Management

I really appreciate that Katherine took the time to explain how my problem occurs, and to provide some workarounds for it.  Both workarounds work for me, so I will try to use them as Katherine suggested.

Her answer about why the problem occurs implies that there are different search processes at work for the Relevance view (perhaps newer and faster) and Category view (perhaps relying on an older search algorithm similar to Old Search). 

While trying to do my own analysis of the problem, I found that doing the wild card search for "isa* sea*" works fine in Old Search with or without exact matches selected (exact matches selected results in a Category view match list).  So that's another option for users.

I won't pretend to know how these search algorithms work.  I'm always amazed that any search can return millions of matches in a few seconds to my computer screen.  As an example, I received over 4.5 million matches for a "john smith" search in less than five seconds.  

As I say in my presentations about, "Ancestry has (IMHO) the most sophisticated and complex search process in the genealogy world."

I do really appreciate the search capabilities, and am puzzled when they don't work as I expect them to!

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1880 U.S. Census Record for Henry White Family

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the 1880 United States Census record for my White 2nd great-grandfather's family in Killingly town, Windham County, Connecticut:

The Henry A. White household:

The extracted information for the household, with an enumeration date of 18-19 June 1880, is:

*  Henry A. White - white, male, age 54, married, a carpenter, born Rhode Island, father born R.I., mother born R.I. 
*  Almira White - white, female, age 38, wife, married, keeping house, born Massachusetts, father born R.I., mother born R.I.
*  Effie G. White - white, female, age 5, daughter, single, born Connecticut, father born R.I., mother born Mass.
*  George Winslow - white, male, age 18, step-son, single, works in a cotton mill, born Connecticut, father born R.I., mother born Mass.

The source citation for this document is:

1880 United States Federal Census, Windham County, Connecticut, Population Schedule, Killingly: Page 605B, dwelling #215, family #296, Henry White household; digital image, (; citing National Archives Microfilm Publication T9, Roll 110.

There is only two minor errors in this enumeration that I find when comparing to other information:

*  Henry A. White was born in about 1824, making him 55 or 56 in 1880.
*  Almira (Taft) (Winslow) White was born in Connecticut, not in Massachusetts

This is Henry A. White's second family - his first wife, Amy Oatley, died in 1864, and he married Almira (Taft) Winslow (widow of George Winslow) in 1866.  Henry and Almira had two children - a son who died at birth in 1873 and Effie G. White (1874-1900).  George Winslow (1862-1928) was the son of George and Almira (Taft) Winslow.

Almira (Taft) (Winslow) White died in 1927, and George Winslow (her son) died in 1928.  I wonder if Almira White had the residue of the Henry White family papers, and if she passed them to her son, George Winslow, who died in 1928.  I need to research the George Winslow family a bit to see if their are descendants that might have family records that could add to my knowledge base.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sorting Out Ancestry Global Search Matches

On my post Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations yesterday, Desta Elliott commented:

"...I  am curious, does anyone really search 2000 records? Yet, I worry that, buried, 1600 records down is the one I want."

I sincerely doubt that they do.  I know that I don't.  I joked today at the CVGS meeting (I spoke on "Searching Effectively") that it might take me a day or two to get through the 262,000 matches for my Isaac Seaver using the Ranked Matches.  

The way to overcome the "thousands of matches problem" is to narrow the search using a birth year (with a range) and a birth place location, if known.  That really helps.  But what if you still have hundreds of matches for a common name?  

If you are getting "Ranked Matches" that are sorted by Relevance (meaning gold star ranking), then you can change to "Summarize by Category."

Here is my "Sorted by Relevance" match list for a global search for First name = "isaac" and Last name = "seaver":

I circled the "View" field on the screen above - the option is "Summarize by Category."  When I clicked the "Summarize by Category" the list changed to:

Frankly, I find the "Summarize by Category" list much easier to work with - I like order, and that provides it.  One drawback is that you have to click on the "See all 21,995 results..." link to see all of the databases in a specific record collection (e.g., "Census & Voter Lists.")

To find my specific Isaac Seaver, born 1823 in Massachusetts, I "Edit the Search" (green button in  upper left, or Hot Key "r") to add them:

I left the names in "Default setting" but changed the birth year to 1823 plus/minus 2 years (exact) and the birthplace to "Massachusetts, USA" (restricted to exact).  The results are much more manageable:

Only 572 matches!  I can easily click into these databases one at a time to find my specific Isaac Seaver.  The "Sorted by Relevance" list looks like:

There are only 176 matches ... why is that?  Strange.  Perhaps it's tree matches and public/private photos/stories that don't show up.  Of those 176 matches, the "Matching person" is correct, and:

*  the first three record matches are correct census matches
*  the next 16 matches are record images from my trees for the right person
*  the next four record matches are correct matches
*  after that, the first name variation matches start and are not the correct persons.

I may have just lucked out on the latter "sorted by relevance" match list since the narrowing criteria drove the results down to one match in many of the categories.  For instance, in the "Summarized by Category" list, the correct Isaac Seaver was the first match listed for the census databases, and was the only Isaac on those lists.

Both systems work, but if a person was searching for a more common name, the "Summarize by category" might be more useful.  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver adds Record Matches and Smart Matches

I received an email from Amanda of yesterday, saying:

"Delighted to let you know that now has historical records and Smart Matching™ which will help our users enrich their family trees, and the World Family Tree, with historical data and discover unknown relatives! The World Family Tree is a global initiative by that shows how everyone in the world is related. These technologies make the World Family Tree a more accurate and better documented resource. 

"Smart Matching and Record Matching are unique technologies developed by our parent company, MyHeritage. Here's some more info about them:
  • Smart Matching™ automatically finds matches for family trees on among billions of family tree profiles on MyHeritage. These matches allow members to grow their family tree, discover new ancestors and relatives, connect with other family tree owners and reunite with long lost family members.
  • Record Matching compares the profiles in your family tree to billions of historical records in MyHeritage's online digital archive - and lets you know whenever we find a relevant document. In addition, once a record is confirmed and added to the World Family tree, sources and citations are automatically created, allowing users to view information in the right context."
Amanda had a very complete blog post about the technology in Introducing Record Matches and Smart Matches™ for Your Family Tree on the Geni Blog yesterday.

I wanted to take a look at this on my own Geni account - it's a Basic account (meaning I don't pay for it).  Did they have matches for my people?

Here is my home page:

Over on the right of the screen above, there is an area titled "Matches" with a small red "NEW" highlight.  There are names of people in my Geni database, and a number of matches shown in the oval with a blue background.

I picked my grandfather, Frederick Walton Seaver, from the list - he had 12 matches:

On his profile page above, under the "Matches" heading, there are 0 Geni matches (gray background), 2 Record matches (tan background) and 10 Smart Matches (green background).

I clicked on the "Record Match" icon (the tan background) and saw:

The two record matches for Frederick Walton Seaver were from the Fitchburg [Mass.] Sentinel newspaper.

Further down this page are the Smart Matches - 9 from MyHeritage trees (which are separate) and 1 from WikiTree:

How does this compare to the Record Matches on MyHeritage?  Here is the list of Record Matches for Frederick Walton Seaver on MyHeritage:

There are three Record Matches for my grandfather - the two newspaper articles and the WikiTree entry.  There were also nine Smart Match entries for him.  

So it appears that the system finds all of the Record Matches and Smart Matches that MyHeritage finds.  I note that the databases that MyHeritage accesses are those on WorldVitalRecords, and access to those database requires a Data Subscription to MyHeritage/WorldVitalRecords.

Of course, the Record Matching system did not find ALL of the available records for my grandfather, since MyHeritage/WorldVitalRecords does not have ALL of the available records.  For instance, I know my grandfather is in the available U.S. census records from 1860 to 1940.  He is on Find A Grave, has birth and marriage entries in the Massachusetts Vital Records, and is in the World War I Draft Registrations.  MyHeritage/WorldVitalRecords does not yet have all of the U.S. Census records (although they have said they will have them soon), but it does have Find A Grave (the Frederick Walton Seaver, Sr. entry is available - why didn't it find it?).

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Post 253: Abbie Ardell "Della" Smith of Concordia, Kansas

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

Here is a photograph from the Seaver/Carringer family photograph collection passed to me by my mother in the 1988 to 2002 time period:

This is a photograph of Abbie Ardell "Della" Smith of Concordia, Cloud County, Kansas taken in about 1884.  She was about age 22 at the time of this photo if it was 1884.  Her parents were Devier J. and Abbie (Vaux) Smith, who moved the family in 1885 to McCook, Red Willow County, Nebraska.  Della married Henry Austin Carringer on 11 September 1887 in Wano, Cheyenne County, Kansas and came to San Diego on their honeymoon and never left.

Abbie Ardell "Della" (Smith) Carringer (1862-1944) is my great-grandmother through her son Lyle L. Carringer (1891-1976) and her granddaughter, Betty Virginia (Carringer) Seaver (1919-2002) to me.

I need to show this photograph to a photo detective to see if they can narrow the time frame down better for me based on the clothing style, hairstyle, or the setting.  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver