Friday, August 30, 2013

Follow-Up Friday - Helpful and Interesting Reader Comments

It's Friday -time to Follow-Up on interesting and helpful reader comments on Genea-Musings posts submitted this past week:

1)  On It's Really Not That Easy! (posted 28 August 2013):

a)  Carmen Johnson said:  "That has always been my beef about the program. I've never had someone go find the document and bring it to me. I'm not sure I would really want to. They have missed out on the moment of discovery. I suspect that someone like Cindy Crawford will probably explore a bit more. She is intelligent. From what I saw on the Twitter account - she took her sisters and mother with her and they explored a lot of the places and such...but you don't see that on the program. You can take years of research and boil it down to a simple statement - but only someone who has done the work recognizes what goes on in the background. I have enjoyed the search sometimes more than the results."

b)  Mary Ellen Gorry offered:  "... it would be nice if the show did a special or behind the scenes snippets emphasizing all the work put in by the professionals before the celebrities get to each location - my cousin and I joke that we'd like to show up at some genealogy research repository and just be handed our scroll of our family tree without having to put in any of the work ourselves!"

c)  Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith commented:  "Your point is exactly why I wanted to share that 'it took 1000 hours of research' information with all my Facebook followers - that includes my blog readers - who need to 'get this point!'

"We know, it is important for them too, which I think is the point of social media. Everyone won't read it - or pay attention - or care. But with your post, my share, etc. etc. the word does get out... even sometimes to the people we hope get it! ;-)"  

d)  Wayne Shepheard noted:  "Isn't everyone related to Charlemagne?! That is a subject I find most annoying about public family trees. So many historians eventually find their way back to this particular monarch. If there is a familiar name in someone's pedigree it can be added in, linked to royalty and away we go! My other problem with Cindy's ancestors was that there was no confirmed link between the missing Thomas Trowbridge in Connecticut to the one who appeared back in Taunton, Somerset. Did someone find a passenger list for the 1600s on which he appeared on his way back to England? Unlikely!"

My comment:  I think that almost everyone with a significant European ancestry is a descendant of Charlemagne.  The problem is finding enough records to demonstrate the connection.  Proof is difficult because there is not enough evidence, and there are so many illegitimacies in the known royal and noble lines.  The Gary Boyd Roberts book provides 600 American immigrants with those lines and is the best starting point.  

e)  Shjody said:  "Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for novice blog writers? I'd certainly appreciate it.  My webpage; schody strychowe ("

My comment:  I'm sorry that the blog ate your comment.  My advice for novice blog writers is simple:  Write.  A lot.  About what you find interesting and special.  Find a niche or interest.  Comment on other blogs and forums.  Promote your writing in social media.  Offer to write for other outlets (websites, newsletters, magazines, etc.)

f)  Doris Wheeler suggested:  "I have a chart like that... and it certainly has a 'WOW' factor. I think my chart covered 22 generations and I added an ellipsis to Charlemagne. Cost was $39 from Wholly Genes. If you have The Master Genealogist, just create the chart as a .vcf (very simple), then choose the Report option 'Chart Printing Service.' You can use as many colors as you like and customize it however much or little you choose. Love it! I give away family-specific versions as gifts. They really make a hit."

My comment:  There are several chart services that will take your graphics file and create a beautiful chart for a price.  Or will take your GEDCOM file and create the chart and work with you on adding images or special effects.  Do you know which chart service TMG uses?

g)  Celia Lewis inquired:  "Since I'm also down from Thomas Trowbridge, I'd love to know about the research 'proving' the link to Taunton. Sigh. Is anyone posting that lovely research analysis/proof?? Could we ask nicely?? :) "

My comment:  From what I read, they do provide a complete research report to the celebrity.  In this case, it is probably the case of the person disappearing in one place for some reason (e.g., the death of his wife), and appearing soon after, as an adult, in England and getting quickly swept up into events.  I do hope that they will provide some sort of research report on the disappearance making the case.  What happened to the children would have been a more interesting story from a genealogical point of view, I think.

h)  Dan Stone commented:  "I think the episode, and your post, brings up a good discussion point of when is it time to call in a professional genealogist versus continuing to research by myself. While the research and discovery process is very thrilling, what if a professional genealogist was able to uncover something I had not (for whatever reason: not having access to the record online/locally, not being aware of where the record may be found, etc.), and this subsequently allowed me to break through a brick wall and/or get even further back on my line. Since one never knows how much time they have left, I strive to find the right balance between continuing the thrill of the hunt as contrasted with gaining as much knowledge as I can about a particular line of ancestors by calling in an expert. Cost of hiring a professional researcher also plays into this equation.

"While I think it is unlikely to happen, I also wish the show would profile interesting stories about non celebrities. Perhaps ask people who have uncovered interesting stories/connections in their research to submit leads to the show. They could then pick the most interesting of these to actually feature on the show periodically. I'm sure not all of the celebrities they've initially selected have turned out to have ancestors interesting enough to make the show, and I know there are plenty of non celebrities who have ancestors who are equally as compelling, or even more so."

My comment:  Great points, Dan.  While I've never asked a professional genealogist to do extensive research (past a lookup or a record pull), it can be the only option for people without the time or skills, or who cannot travel due to disabilities, and with the money to do the work.  1,000 hours is not cheap!

I think that they use celebrities for two reasons - the name recognition will draw viewers to the show, and the celebrities are, in the main, actors who can improvise from a general scripting, are emotive, and are comfortable with the camera.  You can see that some of the professionals they consult with are hesitant on camera.  

I also think you're right - there are probably some celebrities who have a rather boring ancestry and some where the ancestral trail goes cold in the immigrant generation - they just can't find ancestors in Europe, South America, Africa or Asia for an interesting story.  

a)  Silphium commented:  "From the top left hand corner of the section outlined in the top photo of this blog entry, trace your finger left along the road to the first set of buildings on the north side of the road. (Less than 1/4 mile.) That is the Owens Century Farm, purchased by my Great-Greatgrandfather Evan John Owens in 1874. It is still in my family and is an active farm.

"What were my odds of finding your post? Wow.  Should you need local knowledge, let me know. I'll be reading your archives.'

and:  "Second photo, Randy, Sorry. The purple section square."

My comment:  Thank you for commenting on this blog post.  Do you know if there are any local libraries or historical societies that have kept track of farm ownership?  Or have account books or "old-timer reminisces" books?  Your Owens farm was bought while my ancestors resided on their farm just down the road - your Evan Owens probably knew my Henry Carringer!  Please contact me via email at  

To prospective bloggers - here is another example of  how writing a blog post on a family history item of interest to few people can turn into a potential information bonanza.  Having a local contact to share information with can be very useful.

a)  Michele Simmons Lewis asked:  "I sent a message to Ancestry via FB and asked them if the military records are being moved to the World subscription. It looks like it when you look at their comparison chart. I posted a screenshot with my question."

and got a response:  "I just got a response. Here it is:

"Hi Michele, Sorry for any confusion caused by this. With a U.S. Discovery subscription, you'll be able access U.S. military records. We'll pass your feedback along to the appropriate department."

My comment:  Good question, glad you got a response.  Right answer!

b)  Debi Austin asked:  "I already subscribe to ancestry on an annual basis. I wonder if there are any changes to that price?"

My comment:  I think you will pay the new increased price of $99 for 6 months or $198 for 12 months when you renew your subscription.  You may have to call Ancestry to get a one year subscription.  It never hurts to ask if they have any special deals when you call.

c)  Andrew Hatchett noted:  "Ancestry hasn't increased yearly rates in quite some time. As long as they remain below$365/yr I'll stay - after that it gets 'iffy.'"

d)  Christy commented:  "We can only hope that with the increase in price will come an improvement in the site. Lately, there have been man issues. (This is me trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.)"

e)  T said:  "OH, dear. This is not music to my ears. I have a hard time paying for it as it is.  I was considering not renewing anyway because every search I do for my family turns up the very documents that I already have on my tree and all the photos, too. There hasn't been anything new for several months. I'm stuck going backwards and ancestry doesn't even have the years or places I need. I'm also very annoyed that after paying for the subscription I still have to pay for a vital record to even see the details. I won't do it. My ancestor information is scarcer than hen's teeth and I've already spent too much money on people who aren't mine. 

"Add this price increase to the $25 they want for FTM software update and it's totaling up to being real money. I think I'll stick to feeding horses as a hobby and wean myself off the genealogy."

My comment:  There are some public libraries, private libraries and FamilySearch Centers that provide free access to   If you know where those repositories are, collect al ist of things to search and go once in awhile.  FamilySearch has many records available for free, but they don't have all of the records that Ancestry has.  I could research forever using FamilySearch records, and they will add more and more over the coming years.  

f)  Thomas MacEntee wrote:  "I made an inquiry with my contacts at about the price increase and here is the response: ' continually tests it’s pricing, which is an ongoing, important strategy for any subscriber-based business. As our pricing evolves, we continue to focus on delivering our members the valuable family history resources they have the gained from our services, including access to billions of records, site and mobile features that make family history easier, development of proprietary technology to digitize and preserve historical records, and onsite training for every level of family historian.'"

My comment:  Just what I expect from a well-oiled public relations machine!  I made a comment in email to Thomas saying:  "They could have said '...our costs for content, technology and subscriber acquisition have increased significantly, and since we haven't increased our prices since 2004 for US subscribers, we need to raise our prices 25% in order to maintain our market position and provide valuable services and content to our customers.'

g)  Nancy Marty offered:  "My subscription was up for renewal in September when I received an email from in regard to it. I was given a "one time" special. $155.40 for the US version renewal and $199 for the US and World subscription. I grabbed it! Seems to me I've had this special some time in years past. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. I, too, was considering not renewing this year, but the special made it worth the while."

My comment:  Well played, Nancy.  Lucky, too!  Did you ask for the "one-time special" or did they offer it to you in the email?

h)  Dave L. opined:  "'No one likes price increases...' Very true, although I think we all realize that they're necessary from time to time. Many, though, would prefer to have smaller increases more frequently.

"What bothers me with this announcement is the way they're borrowing from the cable TV industry: showing a promotional rate, but not a word about what the 'then-current' rate will be after that first month (and this is only a month away; if they don't already know what that rate is going to be then they get an F grade as businessmen).

" isn't alone, of course, but businesses need to remember that openness is the name of the game. If customers don't feel that you respect them -- and remember, they are the ONLY reason your business exists -- then they will go elsewhere."

My comment:  Good points, Dave.  My complaint is that their is no systematic price break for a renewing customer.  A 10% reduction if I renew before my subscription expires would be very welcome.  They are willing to offer a price break to new customers at times.  It should be easier for them to retain an existing, satisfied customer than try to find new customers using advertising to replace that existing customer who does not renew.

4)  That's enough for this week - the grandgirls are calling for me to play with them!  Thank you to my readers, and to those who defeat the dreaded Captcha trap for comments.  Well done!

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

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