Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: The FAN Principle QuickSheet

Elizabeth Shown Mills’s _QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle)_Has it been three years since Genealogical Publishing sent me a bunch of publications for review? I apologize; if I’m going to accept publications, I need to follow through. Today, I’m reviewing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).

Elizabeth Shown Mills uses the acronym FAN to help people remember the meaning of cluster research. “To prove identity, origin, and parentage, study individuals in the context of their FAN Club: Family, Associates, and Neighbors.”

I’d always considered cluster research to be something used solely to break through brick-walls. This QuickSheet has convinced me otherwise. Genealogy—family history, if you prefer—is more than vital facts. It is understanding a person’s story in context. Where did they live throughout their life? Who did they associate with? What was the legal environment? What was their character? Only when we have this depth of understanding can we be confident that the assembled sources all refer to the same person.

On page one, Mills gives six basic questions to apply as a starting point. She reviews seven major problems and work-arounds. On page two, she gives 16 record types with extremely helpful hints on how to apply them to cluster research. Page three consists of “the Problem-solving Spiral,” with guidance on how to structure a research project. Page four gives a simple bull’s eye illustration with some general guidance.

In each of my reviews I feel obligated to say something negative, so here it is. I wasn’t certain the flow of information was the most natural. I’m pretty familiar with Mills’s teaching skills—which are exceptional—so I doubt this is the fault of the author. Authors are constrained by editors, graphic designers, layout, and the size of the subject matter. But this nit pic hardly matters; with only four pages of information, the order does not affect the value.

QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2012.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1894-3
Genealogical Publishing Company
1-800-296-6687, www.genealogical.com
$8.95 plus shipping.

Also available as a digital publication from the author. www.evidenceexplained.com
$8.95.

Monday, April 27, 2015

AncestryDNA $79 Sale Today

imageTo celebrate DNA day, AncestryDNA is offering its $99 DNA kit for $79 today. With AncestryDNA it’s always a good idea to wait for their $79 sale. Their other sale price is $89. I’ve never seen anything less than $79, although they apparently have done limited price testing for as low as $49 (according to the Genealogy Junkie). So if you’ve been waiting for the best price to come around, unless they drop their list price, $79 is probably the best you can hope for. The sale ends today, 27 April 2015.

In addition to your own autosomal test, it’s a good idea to have your oldest (generationally) )living progenitors tested as well. For more information, see “AncestryDNA is a Team Sport,” a recent article on the Ancestry Blog.

For more information about AncestryDNA and to see the whole sales pitch, visit http://dna.ancestry.com.

For a comparison of the genealogy DNA tests from the various companies, see “Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart” on the ISOGG wiki.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing (Arbitration) Event

FamilySearch Indexing's arbitration program looks like thisFamilySearch currently uses a double-blind methodology for indexing. (They’ve indicated that this could change for some projects. See “FamilySearch Considers Alternatives to Double-Blind Indexing.”) In double-blind indexing, two indexers independently abstract information from an image of a record. FamilySearch compares the values and if the indexers disagreed in any way on anything on the image, it is routed to a third person called an arbitrator. The arbitrator is something like a trusted, master indexer. As a minimum, the arbitrator must provide values for any mismatched fields. But the arbitrator can review and correct any field, even those for which the indexers agreed. The arbitrator has the responsibility to specify the final values that FamilySearch will subsequently publish.

That responsibility can be scary. Perhaps that is why FamilySearch is falling behind in arbitration. There is a backlog of 6.5 million images, according to FamilySearch’s Spencer Ngatuvai. (See “A Clarion Call for Arbitrators: Worldwide Arbitration Event” on the FamilySearch blog.)

To help remedy this, FamilySearch is sponsoring a “Worldwide Arbitration Event.” The event is being held over eight days, from 1 May 2015 to 8 May 2015. FamilySearch hopes to reduce the backlog during the event by two million.

A side effect of the event may be an increase in the number of arbitrators. Arbitrating doesn’t have to be scary. “Preparation is key,” said Ngatuvai. If you are not currently an arbitrator, start preparing now by reading “How to Become an Arbitrator.” It takes some time to qualify, so now is the time to begin.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ancestry Academy

Ancestry.com's Laura Prescott launches Ancestry AcademyWow. This is Ancestry.com’s second big announcement while I’m on this road trip. They need to do a better job of coordinating with my schedule. <smile>

Last week Ancestry.com launched Ancestry Academy, a new, educational website. I don’t have time to write about it. Again, you’re on your own. For more information, see these resources:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Insight Into FamilySearch’s Record Acquisition and Indexing

FamilySearch's Jake GehringRecently, FamilySearch’s Jake Gehring disclosed details on how FamilySearch decides what to acquire and what to index. Here’s a synopsis of the information from two articles from the FamilySearch blog: “Where Do Indexing Projects Come From?” and “The Inside Story: What Determines the Pace of an Indexing Project?

Of course, FamilySearch can’t acquire and publish a record that it doesn’t know about. “FamilySearch representatives often discover collections of value by talking to archivists, librarians, county clerks, and genealogists who know their local records well. Preferred are records that describe family relationships, contain vital information (births, marriages, and deaths), and cover a broad section of the population,” said Gehring.

FamilySearch can’t just show up at an archive, take pictures, and publish records. First, the record owners must give permission. Usually, that involves a value swap: FamilySearch digitizes the records for the owner in exchange for permission to publish it. FamilySearch has over 275 crews across the world photographing records. The images are sent back to Salt Lake on hard disk drives, or via the Internet.

FamilySearch must decide what to do with the images once they are received. Options include cataloging, publishing images only, and indexing. Projects must be scheduled for available resources. Indexing projects require special setup “with project instructions, sample images, field helps, and a variety of special instructions.”

At any given time there are about 150 indexing projects under way. Predicting how quickly a project will take is challenging. Projects that finish quickly generally are easy, personally appealing, or have tremendous genealogical value. The 1940 U.S. census shared all three of these attributes and finished in record time.

FamilySearch takes steps to move projects along. If you’ve indexed, you know a project may be listed in red as the suggested, highest priority project. FamilySearch also promotes groups of projects, such as it is currently doing with obituaries. FamilySearch may provide special training to volunteers or societies.