Thursday, October 1, 2015

Find A Grave’s Community Day 17 October 2015

The Find a Grave Community Day is 17 October has announced that this year’s Find A Grave Community Day is scheduled for 17 October 2015. Ancestry’s Jessica Murray said “Last year was an amazing success thanks to you, our incredible volunteers, who visited over 100 cemeteries and contributed more than 250,000 photos on the days leading up to, and on, Find A Grave Community Day 2014.” They hope to break that record this year.

If you wish to participate, check the Find A Grave event list on Facebook for something near you. If you find one that interests you, click the Join button.

If you wish to organize an effort to photograph a cemetery, Ancestry reminds you to get permission from the cemetery first. Once you have permission, register your event. Once a day Ancestry will take the new cemeteries and create corresponding Facebook events. As you make plans, keep an eye open for unfulfilled photo requests for nearby cemeteries.

Ancestry has created a page of resources for you to consult. See

I was doing some research the other day and came across a book of transcriptions of cemetery markers. It gave me the marker I needed, but it was only a transcription. I immediately pulled up Find A Grave, just like any of you would. And I immediately found a photograph of the marker I needed. Find a Grave just keeps getting better and better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Comments about the New Ancestry

Screen shot from the Facts page of a person in New AncestryThank you to everyone for your comments. I have gotten stricter on comments about other commenters. I’m no longer accepting comments that characterize groups of other people in a bad light. I have appreciated commenters helping other commenters. For example, having several of you share your experiences with Family Tree Maker gives other readers a wider sampling than my personal experience.

I realize some of you are dissuaded from commenting because I require that you have an account with one of several systems. I apologize but that is one of several methodologies I have had to employ to avoid a growing number of spam posters.

Some of you make comments by replying to my newsletter emails. I encourage you to leave a comment instead so that others can benefit from your wisdom. Click the title in the newsletter and scroll down to the comments. Or click the comments link near the bottom of the email.

I see in’s 19th September New Ancestry update that they have noticed several of the issues you’ve raised here. They have acted on one of them (contrast), plan to act on a couple more (member connect and linking multiple people to an image), and have acknowledged one other (oval profile pictures).

While I encourage you to continue to share your thoughts through this forum, I see that Ancestry now solicits feedback through their established suggestion box. For New Ancestry feedback, they are suggesting the “General Feedback” category:

Regarding the feedback that there is far too much whitespace: I yearn for the good old days of 24 lines by 80 characters. Screen real estate was so valuable, programmers packed features into every square inch. I feel like you got far more functionality in that itty bitty space than you do in one screen today. I’m afraid utilitarian programmers have been replaced by graphic designers. It is true that interfaces are prettier, and more importantly, intuitive and easier for beginners. But my hands used to fly across the keyboard much faster than moving back and forth to the mouse. And I remember printing 12 generation pedigrees from PAF on 9 sheets of paper. No way it can be done now, despite better printer technology. , Much has been gained, but much has been lost for the experienced person, those willing to get over that initial learning curve.

The motel replaced the heat lamp bulb with a cool florescent bulb.Not to change the subject, but I had an interesting experience over the weekend. I was staying in a motel and awoke to a crisp, cool, September morning. As I left my warm bed, I looked forward to the bathroom heat lamp. The first switch turned on the regular light. When I flipped the second switch I was disappointed, but amused. The motel had replaced the heat lamp bulb with an energy efficient, long lasting, cool-to-the touch florescent bulb.

In our rush to improve upon the past, do we sometimes overlook why things were the way they were?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Navigate Around the Internet Archive Search Bug

There is a bug in Internet Archive’s “Search Inside” a book feature. Don’t trust it. Let me tell you what to do instead.

Let’s say you found your way to a book on Internet Archive (IA). It is A Complete History of Fairfield County, Ohio (at by Hervey Scott. You want to see if Jonas Messerly is mentioned in it. You select the search magnifying glass up in the upper-right corner.

Internet Archive's title search icon

You search for “Messerly” and, oops, you just searched IA for titles rather than searching inside that single title.

Internet Archive's title search results

Wait, don’t cuss me out yet; that’s not the bug. That’s just user error and a user interface annoyance.

You find another search magnifying glass icon on the right-hand side about half way down the page. The context help popup says “search inside.” You select the icon.

Internet Archive's search inside icon

The page changes a bit and the search icon disappears.

The search inside icon is in a different place in the Internet Archive's full screen view.

Instead of instigating a search, what you’ve just done is switched from one book viewer to another. People  in the know tell me that this failure to search is not a bug. Because the design is supposed to do this, it is a WAD, “working as designed.” Fine. Let’s compromise and call it a user interface flaw. But this is still not the bug of which I speak.

The search inside icon has disappeared. The search-all-of-IA box is still up in the upper-right corner of the screen. You fell for that one once before. “Fool me once…” After looking in vain for another search icon, you notice that the search box you previously dismissed, the one that searched for book titles, is now labeled “Search inside”.

The search inside box is at the top in the Internet Archive's full screen view.

Also not the bug of which I speak. It’s another user error and user interface annoyance.

Now comes the bug. You search for “Messerly” and IA erroneously states “No matches were found.”

The Internet Archive's full screen view with no matches found message 

Rather than depend on just the “Search Inside” results, check the raw text. To do this, select the italic I—the “About this book” icon. In the popup, select Plain Text. That brings you to a page containing the raw text from the book. Now use your browser search (^F) to search for Messerly.

Some raw text from an Internet Archive book

There he is on page 73. Now back up to the book viewer and advance to page 73.

Mention of Jonas Messerly in a history of Fairfield County, Ohio

One of the distinct advantages of Internet Archive over Google Books is that downloaded PDF files are searchable. I tested the above book and found that Adobe Reader is not affected by the search bug. You can download from IA with the confidence that your offline study will not be affected.

Mention of Jonas Messerly in a history of Fairfield County, Ohio

Be aware that OCR errors are unaffected by any of this. If a word was not recognized when scanned, then all of these methods will fail to find it.

Finally, the Internet Archive is a non-profit organization that accomplishes amazing things with very little money. No one should be surprised that there are flaws in their software. We are all in their debt. They accept contributions at

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Family Tree Questions

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Can one delete their submission [to FamilySearch] and resubmit a Gedcom file to start all over? I went through the processes for over 3500 individuals only to see a very small and difficult-to-edit/maintain tree. After numerous go-rounds with various levels of support I finally gave up on FT as a 'free' source and replacement for the expensive Thus my opening question.


Dear Ancestry Insider,

[“My Family is All Messed Up on Family Tree.”] I found that out right away.  All my 20 yrs. of research went right down the drain the min. I uploaded to Family Search.  Is there a way to take that tree off of there?  It sure doesn't benefit Family Search, now that it's all catywompus with the wrong information!!  Arggggggggggh!

Brownie MacKie

Dear Zeke and Brownie,

Can you provide me some more information? Perhaps you can send me a URL of a person in your tree. I can then figure out which type of tree you are talking about. The approach to FamilySearch Family Tree is 180 degrees different than for Pedigree Resource File.

---The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I wish there was a tutorial I could read before I begin. I don't see one. I do see that they give directions 'as you work' but I want to know the procedure before hand to determine if I even want to start. I'm concerned that I read somewhere that notes and sources in your GEDCOM won't be added to the tree. So now wondering how one decides between conflicting data if there are no sources to determine validity. If this is spelled out somewhere on the site, pls point me to it.

Can one upload a GEDCOM to FamilyTree and then merge any potential matches? I love the idea of a collaborative tree, but sure wouldn't bother to upload my whole database one person at a time.


Dear Janiejac,

There are no problems with notes and sources if you import your GEDCOM file into a certified software program like RootsMagic or Ancestral Quest and then upload individual persons—one at a time—into FamilySearch Family Tree. For a list of certified programs, search the FamilySearch App Gallery.

The problem of notes and sources lies with using Pedigree Resource File (PRF) as an intermediate step in uploading information to Family Tree. You can upload your entire GEDCOM to PRF and notes and sources are preserved. If you wish to subsequently push your information into Family Tree, you must do that one at a time and sources and notes are not preserved. A FamilySearch Help article titled “Uploading GEDCOM files and copying the information to Family Tree” states that “you cannot currently add the notes, sources, and multimedia links that are in your GEDCOM file to Family Tree.”

Family Tree is in desperate need of an overall manual for Family Tree, but FamilySearch finds themselves in the same boat as its users. FamilySearch is changing things so fast, it is impractical to try and write a manual, only to change it every couple of weeks. There is a third party that has attempted the feat and has apparent endorsement from FamilySearch. His name is Leland Moon. To read the information he has provided, click here or do the following:

  1. In the upper-right corner of, select Get Help.
  2. Near the  top of the page, select “Learning Center” or go to
  3. Search for [“Family Tree Training Lessons and Videos”]. Include the quotes " "; don’t include the square brackets [ ].

Leland has the same problem FamilySearch does; after a couple of weeks, the information is out of date. However, it looks like there is some attempt to keep the information current.

You can upload your

Good luck,
---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, September 25, 2015

Darned Double Records on

Records say the darnedest things.

People have noticed that duplicates exist for some records on There are good reasons. As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints upgraded their computer systems, information was migrated from one to another. In some instances, information was migrated to multiple places for multiple reasons. Records might be shuttled off to the online International Genealogical Index database. Independently, they might be sent to the British Vital Records Index CD-ROMS. Judging from what FamilySearch has published online, it appears that sometimes information was lost during migrations. And sometimes it wasn’t always the same information. FamilySearch appears to have done the conservative thing and published duplicate records, just in case.

Here’s an example. There is a record of the marriage of Nicholas Chatterton to Joan Aault on FHL microfilm 496,705. It was indexed in batch M05442-2. It has been published twice.

One is at

One of two of a duplicate record on

It made its way to via “England-ODM,” as indicated by the “System Origin.” I think that is the equivalent of “England IGI.” (See the FamilySearch Help Center for more information about system origin.) Notice that the event date (why doesn’t FamilySearch call it a marriage date like Ancestry does? Why confuse people?) is 1 August 1568. Notice that the event place is Longford, Derbyshire, England. We’ll learn later that that is the wrong location. This first record has the complete date and the wrong location.

Another copy is

One of two of a duplicate record on

It made its way to via “England-VR,” which I think means the British Vital Records CD-ROMs. Notice that the event date is 1568. FamilySearch has lost the month and day, 1 August. Notice that the event place is Etwall, not Longford, in Derbyshire. This second record has an incomplete date, but the correct location.

If FamilySearch removes one of these duplicates—whichever one—they lose information not present in the other. Now do you see why there are duplicate records on I know people who, when finding duplicate hints, accept one and mark the other as not-a-match. Don’t do that. In the first place, that damages the hinting system. In the second, you may be throwing away information.

By now you’re wondering how I knew which location was the correct one. That is an excellent question. First, I looked up the film number in the catalog, expecting it to list one of the two parishes. It listed both. That left the batch number as my only hope. Here you’ll have to go old school: look up the batch number in the PVRL (Parish and Vital Records Listing) on microfiche. I’m disappointed that FamilySearch hasn’t published the PVRL online. You’ll have to find a family history center that has kept their PVRL microfiche—and kept a fiche reader. Go to the center and look up the batch number to check the name of the parish, hoping the batch wasn’t extracted after the fiche was published. When you complete this exercise, you find that Etwall is correct.

By now you’re also wondering how prevalent blatant place errors are in FamilySearch’s records. There is something you can do to get a feeling as to the quality of a collection. From the collection’s main page, select “Learn More.” That takes you to a wiki article about the collection. Scroll down looking for the section titled “Known Issues with This Collection.” Click the icon to get to the wiki article about the errors in the collection. The “England Marriages, 1538-1973” collection has four screens of errors. One line addresses our error:

Film 0496705, Batch M05442-2: The correct event place as Longford, Derbyshire, not Etwall, Derbyshire.

That’s opposite of my conclusion. Going back to the PVRL, I looked up Etwall and Longford. The batch number for Etwall is M05442-2. The batch number for Longford is M05549-2. Either the PVRL is wrong or the wiki is wrong. My guess is that the wiki has it backwards. But who can tell?

There are a couple of things to learn here. Don’t assume that a computer file is copied exactly when migrated from place to another. In this example, database programmers introduced the errors, not non-English speaking indexers. And never, never trust a derivative record. Always, always find and look at the original or a trustworthy image of it.

Yes, records say the darnedest things.