Thursday, April 17, 2014

FamilySearch Obituary Search

imageA couple of people have pointed me to This is a useful little page for searching for obituaries on, but I wonder if it suffers from limitations of which you should be aware.

The page searches the Memories feature of FamilySearch Family Tree, perhaps for stories containing the word “obituary.” It doesn’t seem to search the obituaries being indexed by FamilySearch Indexing. One example collection is “United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012.”

Both have their place. Perhaps FamilySearch will one day have a search system that searches both.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FamilySearch Breaks, Fixes Image URLs

Several weeks ago users of the website reported that bookmarked URLs to images on stopped working. Users received this error:


A year ago Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager explained that “[links to] FamilySearch person records and their associated images are built on a technology called Persistent Archival Links [PALs]. That is what the pal portion of the record URL means (ex. This is a technology that makes it so that the links should not change.”

In reporting the error above, “GeneJ” complained about “PALs that aren't PALs for long.” Users were angry and fearful.

Randy Wilson, rock star and FamilySearch Information Architect, responded to the report. He said, “This looks like a bug. I will get some engineers working on it.” A couple days later the bug was fixed and old URLs worked as expected.

Wilson explained why the URLs stopped working. FamilySearch had just switched the system it uses to hold records. This caused the URLs of all its images to change. An image that used to be


and the old URL stopped working.

Trouble was, the old URLs were supposed to continue to work. The guts of the PAL (the part before the question mark) didn’t change, so an old URL was supposed to still work. It didn’t. FamilySearch fixed it. Everyone’s (mostly) happy now.

Wilson also revealed that this change won’t be the last. In the coming months FamilySearch will switch from PALs to industry standard ARKs: Archival Resource Keys. He said old PALs will continue to work.

Citation Goobledeegook

This makes me think about some citation principles and why you should always copy and paste the FamilySearch suggested image citation rather than just the URL.
  • Persistent identifiers are not persistent.
  • Redundant information in citations is sometimes a good thing.

I have a family group sheet that lists one source: a Family History Library film number. The problem is, the FHL changed its numbering scheme since that sheet was authored. I have a PAF file that lists a single source: a Pedigree Resource File (PRF) submission identification number. The problem is, FamilySearch changed its numbering scheme when it republished the PRF on the current website. There are citations consisting of nothing more than Dewey call numbers for libraries now using LOC call numbers. Today’s ISBN numbers will be replaced by tomorrow’s ID du jour. Using a lone identification number (or URL) in lieu of a full citation is short sighted.

Redundancy in citations is generally avoided to avoid overly long citations. But in its suggested image citations, FamilySearch is redundant. Consider this citation:

"Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986", images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 Apr 2014), Essex > Deeds 1728-1731 vol 56-58 > image 554 of 792.

It has both the PAL URL and the bread crumb trail. If the image is moved from "Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986" to another collection, the PAL will get you to the image no matter what collection it is in. If the PAL breaks, the bread crumb trail will still get you to the image. If the bread crumb trail is changed, the PAL will still work. If several of these change, there is enough raw metadata that with some effort you will be able to relocate the image.

FamilySearch has made copying the image citation convenient. Click Show Citation and Copy Citation. You can then paste the citation where ever it is needed. One day you will be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Win Subscription, DNA Test, and Research Package

imageThis month you can win a free sub-scription and other prizes worth more than $3,000. In’s Branch Out Contest six lucky Grand Prize winners will receive:

  • One (1) World Membership,
  • One (1) DNA kit
  • One (1) 8x8 Premium Leather Photo Book from, and
  • Twenty (20) hours of ProGenealogists research.

The research time can be used in a variety of ways, such as to start your tree, or teach you how to use to build your tree, or help you break through a brick wall.

To enter, go to the Branch Out Sweepstakes page. To enter you must provide your:

  • Name,
  • Address,
  • Email Address,
  • Phone Number, and
  • Provide a brief story (500 words or less) about your family history. says the story will not be judged or graded. You must consent to have it displayed in connection with the sweepstakes, so you have to own the story or have the story owner’s permission. may wish to display photographs of the people in the story, so you’ll need to be prepared to obtain permissions to display those as well.

With the tax deadline today, its time to think about getting some money back. The sweepstakes deadline is the end of the month.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Mailbox: More RootsTech Sessions Than I Thought

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Two weeks ago I told Claire that all the recorded RootsTech sessions were available on the RootsTech website. Several readers wrote in to set me straight.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I am chairing a Family History Fair in Naperville, IL on April 26, 2014. As a Roots Tech satellite, we have many more programs available to present than those view able online. Of the 10 presentations being shown at our family history fair, only 2 of them are available online.

Christine Bell

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I counted the number available on the RootsTech Website, there were 19 (of course, I'm pretty mathmatically challenged, so it is possible I counted wrong, but I'm going with 19) I counted the number of videos available under the Fair Organizer's resources (videos that I counted were not specifically aimed at [members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]) and came up with 32. There were two additional videos that I considered of interest to both [members and non-members] but which had been included specifically in the LDS portion, so if you add those in there were 34 that were not available for viewing on the RootsTech website.


Looks like you should use the “Find a Fair” page to check out what locations in your area might be available. There’s a page titled “List of Recorded Classes” that gave a list of classes RootsTech planned to record, subject to change. As you can tell from the comments, local organizers choose which sessions to rebroadcast.

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, April 11, 2014

Darned Family Disagreements

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

Darned Family Disagreements

Not long ago names were often spelled phonetically. As spelling solidified, siblings sometimes adopted different spellings. Clytee Kleager Gold experienced this within her own family. Members of the family, all buried within two rows of each other, spelled their names three different ways. Clytee provided these pictures:

Grave marker of Henry Klaeger, 1884-1932 Grave marker of the wife of Aug. Klager, died 1919.

Grave marker of August Kleager, died 1925.Clytee’s favorite is August Kleager’s, pictured to the right. Apparently, not all his survivors were willing to help pay for the grave marker. Notice the inscription at the bottom: “Bought by Henry only.”

“What a lasting epitaph,” wrote Clytee. “Way to go Henry, we are proud that you would pony up for a tombstone!”

“Yup, that's my family!”

Darned family disagreements!

Thanks you, Clytee, for sharing.