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's Laura Prescott launches Ancestry AcademyWow. This is’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 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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Civil War Docs Free on Fold3 Through End of April

Fold3 Free Civil War Documents in April 2015Fold3 is offering free access to its Civil War collection of documents. The offer goes through the end of April 2015. See for more information.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hidden Treasures at (#RootsTech #FGS2015 #RTATEAM)

At RootsTech last month, Crista Cowan and Juliana Szucs presented a session titled “Getting the Most Out of” Unfortunately for me, the session was absolutely packed. Every seat was taken in a very large conference hall. Apparently, everyone wanted to attend, including the fire marshal who stood alongside another hundred people lining the walls and jamming the doorways. I was unable to get in.

“Getting the Most Out of” was packed

Fortunately for you, the session was recorded and is available for viewing on the RootsTech website at

Crista Cowan and Juliana Szucs presented "Getting the Most Out of"

Fortunately for me, I was able to attend most of Michelle Ercanbrack’s FGS session, “Hidden Treasures at” Michelle filled in for Loretto Dennis “Lou” Szucs. (Lou! We missed you!) Afterwards she passed out Valentine’s Day chocolates! I’m at the point in my RootsTech/FGS conference reporting where all you’re going to get is pretty much a dump of my notes. Sorry, Michelle. Bribing me with chocolate usually gets you uncommonly good coverage. has many databases that are hidden treasures.

Non-population schedules

To get a list of state censuses, Michelle uses Google and searches for [list of state censuses]. (Don’t enter the square brackets.) Check the list for the state and year of interest. Then go to and see if they have it. Another approach is to search Google for [State Census]. Database descriptions are important because some censuses are missing some counties. Michelle showed an Iowa census as an example of a census that contains lots of information.

New York, Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, 1830-1920

TVA Family Removal case file for Jim Henry DavisU.S., Tennessee Valley, Family Removal and Population Readjustment Case Files, 1934-1953. Dams to control flooding forced some families to move. More than Tennessee families were affected. An example is Jim Henry Davis. The form shows the miles from school and store. It asks for information about employment, religion, expenses of running farm, wages, names and ages of children, and how they feel about moving.

A closely related collection is the Tennessee Valley Cemetery Relocation Files, 1933-1990. Don’t forget to check the back, as some have additional notes.

Some passenger lists are overlooked. has 133 collections, including border crossings. They have databases for all major U.S. ports.

Naturalization records

Naturalization Indexes. Michelle showed an example from Lou Szuc’s family. They found a William Huggins naturalization record. They are pretty sure it is for their ancestor because the witness, Michael Meehan, was also sponsor for several of his children’s baptisms. The witnesses knew the people well.

U.S Passport Applications, 1795-1925

Military Records

1890 Veterans Schedules – This is an incomplete collection. It contains only parts from Kentucky through Wyoming, and select U.S. vessels. If there is something circled, it means there is additional information elsewhere. (I didn’t catch where.) In some cases, confederates were included, but some will be found crossed out. Widows sometimes reported her husband’s service, even though soldier had died.

U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Contains only those applications that were accepted. Basically, an application contains their genealogies. Consider it the equivalent to an online tree. Some included sources, but there could be errors. They didn’t have the wealth of sources we have today.

Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865. Michelle showed an example with a note that had interesting details.

U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900. Often took the land and turned it. There are 80,000 application files for pensions for service, disabilities, or widows.

US Records

US City Directories, 1821-1989. Make sure to check city’s year ranges. These have OCR indexes, so sometimes you can get some “funky stuff” (indexing errors). They are basically a phone book, so Michelle accesses them like that. She doesn’t rely on search. Some pages are out of order. Some also have local histories, business directories, church lists, and fraternal society lists.

U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 is another fun collection. Look for your grandparents. Michelle loves those pictures because it is not how she knew them. There are almost 300 million records in this collection.

Quaker collection – This is the largest online collection of Quaker records. There are multiple databases. See

U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 – 6.4 million records in this one collection.

On the search page, scroll to the bottom right corner for links to ethnic pages such as African-American Collections. The Jewish Family History Collection is a result of a half-dozen different organizations coming together with lots of volunteers indexing.

International Records

Some people have not noticed the tabs above the map on the search page. These allowing browsing to country pages.

Know the Records: Search for any name, look at a record, and see what is included and what is indexed. Form a search strategy based on that. How are the records organized? Watch for notices, such as the one reminding you that Swedish birth records are in Swedish.

London, England, Clandestine Marriage and Baptism Registers, 1667-1754 – there are some very old, awesome stuff in this database. Spend some time within these databases to see what is available.

Educational Treasures

The Learning Center – There is a link to it on the top menu bar. Among other resources are research guides for many of the states and 30 guides on reference topics.

Five Minute Finds – These are short, instructional videos. There are links to them on the learning center page. Or you can go directly to YouTube and find them there. There are also hour long videos.

Access resources on social networks.

  • Facebook is a great place to ask questions.
  • Follow on Twitter for content alerts and education opportunities.
  • Follow the Ancestry Blog for the latest updates.
  • Crista Cowan does bi-weekly half-hour videos that can be viewed on Livestream or later on YouTube.

The Ancestry Wiki is accessible via the Learning Center. It contains the contents of the Red Book and The Source. “This is my Bible,” Michelle said. “Combine this with database descriptions and it is unstoppable.”