Monday, August 14, 2006

"Finding Your Roots" article

There was a major genealogy article in my San Diego Union-Tribune this morning titled "Finding Your Roots" with the byline San Francisco Chronicle and Wall Street Journal - no specific person. In general, the article is positive and encouraging, and reflects the current state of genealogy research pretty well. The SD U-T link is behind a subscriber firewall - I found a link at the SF Chronicle here, to an article dated 22 June 2006, by Benjamin Pimentel that uses the first half of the article in the SD U-T. It appears that the SD U-T has blended the Chronicle article to a Wall Street Journal article by Jessica Vascalero here from 21 July. At least it is new for San Diego readers!

An article sidebar lists five web sites to visit for sources and tips for online genealogy searches:


Hmmm. Where's USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb? Cyndi's List? Linkpendium? Boards? Lists? Groups? Bloggers? Probably too overwhelming for the poor reporter without a clue.

The article gives a lot of credit to Ancestry for completing a years-long census project, but says that " includes all available information for people who lived in the United States across 140 years." Ummm, not's only census data, folks, not "all" the rest. Granted, Ancestry has a lot of databases and information, but not ALL available information.

The article quotes a number of prominent people - like Lou Szucs of Ancestry:
“The thrill of being able to go online and finding information in five minutes – you can see what an incredible difference it makes,” said Lou Szucs,'s chief genealogist. “There is something very magical when you find your family in the census. You want more and more. It's very addictive.”

And Chris Cowan of ProQuest:
HeritageQuest's census database hasn't been indexed and isn't directly available to consumers, said Chris Cowan, vice president of publishing at the ProQuest Genealogy Center, which owns HeritageQuest Online. Its site,, is used by more than 4,000 public libraries.
Of course, Cowan either doesn't know about his product or was misquoted, since the HQO census records are indexed, just not every-name indexed.

They also quote Steve Danko, a genea-blogger here:
In April, Stephen Danko's quest to hunt down his grandfathers' World War II “Old Man's Draft Cards” – documents revealing his ancestors' ages, dates and places of birth along with their hair color, eye color, height and weight – required him to take a trip from San Francisco to a Salt Lake City archive to find them on microfilm. A few weeks after he returned, he noticed the same documents online on

“I find stuff online all the time that I couldn't when I started,” said Danko, 52, a pharmaceutical company employee.

The article gives a lot of space to The last two paragraphs:
Sites also are adding new services to encourage users to spend more time browsing. This summer, MyHeritage will begin enabling users to upload their own photos and sort them into family trees through facial-recognition software that clusters faces based on attributes such as bone structure and the unique characteristics of the person's eyes.

Eventually, for an extra fee, consumers probably will be able to run a worldwide genealogy search covering all members of their family tree and receive updates when there are new search results for entries in their network, said Gilad Japhet, the company's founder.

I blogged about the face matching thing several weeks ago. I'm not so sure about the last claim, howeever, from my limited 2006 perspective. Do they know how many ancestors we have?

Would you pay an "extra fee" to be able to have a web site send you new search results on your ancestors? That would take all the fun out of the hunt, I think.

All in all, a decent article. I'm considering writing a letter to the editor to see if they would be willing to interview some local society members to followup on ther article and perhaps give the local societies some publicity. The good news is that it may encourage more people to start their ancestral search.

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