Tuesday, September 16, 2014

FamilySearch’s Electronic Books - #BYUFHGC

Internet Archives book scannerDennis Meldrum and Tim De Graw gave a session titled “What is Happening with FamilySearch Books” at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy back on 29 July 2014. With FGS hitting so soon after BYU, I’m only now getting to it.

Meldrum announced that FamilySearch had exceeded 150,000 books in their electronic book collection! (I see the total is now over 166,000.) That is amazing. In addition to family, local, and county histories, the collection contains directories, how-to books, medieval genealogies, Bible records, cemetery records, vital records, biographies, periodicals, yearbooks, and gazetteers. Only books are included in the collection. Generally, that means it’s going to have a title page and an author.

FamilySearch is digitizing these books to make them readily and freely available, and to preserve them for future generations. And it is not just digitizing FamilySearch’s own collection. Here is a list of its partners. (I’ve shown how many books have come from each, according to the FamilySearch Books website.)

  • Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana) - 21,954 – There are eight full-time missionaries scanning there.
  • Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library (Provo, Utah) *
  • Brigham Young University-Idaho David O. McKay Library (Rexburg, Idaho) *
  • Church History Library (Salt Lake City, Utah) *
  • FamilySearch Family History Library (Salt Lake City, Utah) - 123,495 *
  • Houston Public Library Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research (Houston, Texas) - 4,454
  • Internet Archive (various institutions)- 20,931
  • Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center (Independence, Missouri) - 4,075

* I’m guessing the book count for the Family History Library includes these partners as well as some family history centers, including Mesa, Arizona; Ogden, Utah; and St. George, Utah.

As of the time of the conference, FamilySearch was soon going to add additional partners: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Larsen-Sant Public Library (Preston, Idaho), and Onondaga County Public Library (Syracuse, New York). In addition to partner sites, they also have scanning centers in Las Vegas, Nevada; Oakland, California; Orange, California; Pocatello, Idaho; Sacramento, California; and West Valley City, Utah.

Book scanning has been possible only through the many hours worked by 190 volunteers. (They are always looking for replacements, as volunteers serve for less than two years. Contact books@familysearch.org.) At the time of the conference, volunteers had already put in 135,000 hours this year, scanning 84,000 books, or about 16.8 million pages. FamilySearch was using 38 book scanners. Two of the types cost $15,000 and $35,000 apiece.

Sophia Dutton DeGraw BorenFamily history books are quite valuable. There are about 11.5 names per page, 60% of which are not already in Family Tree. Names are linked together into lineages. They also contain stories and photos. De Graw showed the picture of an ancestors he found, Sophia Dutton DeGraw Boren.

It’s easier than you might think to find these gems. FamilySearch’s book collection allows full text searching of all 166,000 books. Begin your search at http://books.familysearch.org. Search for a name, an author, a place, or a title. Use Advanced Search to add additional criteria: subject, periodical title, or reviewed materials. (That later category refers to titles marked by the history department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Use the filters along the left margin to filter by material type (book, periodical, etc.), library collection, author/creator, and language. (As I am writing this, there are 6,000 German books, 3,500 French, 1,900 Dutch, and almost a thousand Danish books. There are books in Norwegian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Finnish, Icelandic, Hungarian, and 16 other languages.)

Sort the results by relevance, date, popularity, author, or title. In the future, you will be able to sort the unrestricted books together.

Use advanced search features: wildcards, quotes, AND, OR, NOT, and parentheses.

Unfortunately, some books are still protected by copyright so they can not be viewed outside a family history center. Even less fortunate, the messages communicating this are not well worded:

  • “You don’t have sufficient rights to view requested object. Access denied” – This message means the book must be viewed at a family history center or the Salt Lake Family History Library. These books are also subtly marked with an icon over the cover thumbnail.
  • “Item is currently in use by another user. Somebody else is currently using this book, and only one user can use this book at a time. Please check back for availability in 60 minutes.” – You should get this error only at a family history center. If you get it elsewhere, then the system is misbehaving.
  • “Unauthorized Access,” or some other variation – This is common when a book had to be withdrawn. There may have been a quality issue, or FamilySearch discovered it didn’t have rights to post the book.
  • “404 error” – You can get this error if you try manually editing the URL.

There are other problems trying to use FamilySearch Books and FamilySearch is planning on addressing them. There are some browser and device issues. FamilySearch is addressing them by changing to a viewer like Internet Archives’s. This is planned for Q4 or Q1. Until then, if you have rendering issues, upgrade your browser or try a different browser, upgrade your Adobe Reader or try a different PDF viewer. Another problem is limited in-book manipulations. They plan on adding them (although they didn’t mention what they are). Searching within a book is pretty limited today; they plan on implementing more robust in-book searching. Today, searching historical records doesn’t tell you about matches in books; and record hints don’t include matches in books. FamilySearch hopes to fix these limitations. While not a problem, per se, the books.familysearch.org page is pretty dull and of limited functionality. FamilySearch hopes to beef it up, with digital donations, collection highlights (unique books), and updates.

Meldrum and De Graw ended with an invitation to submit your books for publication on FamilySearch Books. To quote from the syllabus:

Your family history books can be added to the Family History Book collection. If the book is copyright we need written permission from the copyright holder (normally the author). This permission is given on the Authorized Gift Form. You can get a copy of this Form by emailing books@familysearch.org.

FamilySearch can accept books in either traditional hardcopy or electronic format.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Conference Early Bird Discounts Extended – Deadline Today

The Ancestry Insider at RootsTech 2015The end of special registration discounts to RootsTech and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conferences snuck up on many of us, so conference organizers have extended the deadline to today to give them one last marketing push. If you’re considering attending one or both of these coincident, colocated conferences, today is the day to act. These are two of the three national conferences (the National Genealogical Society conference in May being the third). Who knows when or if ever these two conferences will be held together again. 

Another upside is that the conferences are being held in Salt Lake City, just south of the famed Family History Library. The downside of that is, you may be vying with 5,000 other people for 50 microfilm readers. Okay, maybe that isn’t an upside. Still, the two conferences together or alone may be worth the trip. And the library is extending its hours for conference attendees.

RootsTech offers a plethora of registration options for the general public (one day or three day passes for 12-14 February 2015), technologists (11 February), beginners (one or three day passes), students (three day passes), and families (who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - 14 February). Over 200 classes are listed on the conference schedule. Frequently asked questions are answered on the RootsTech website.

The FGS Conference offers registration options for early-bird, regular, onsite, single day, and student rate. The FGS Conference brochure will answer your questions about the tracks, sessions, speakers, hotels, and travel options. The FGS conference opens Wednesday night with a special event, “Behind the Scenes: Family History & Television.” Tickets are $10. Further information is available on the conference website and on the conference blog.

The FGS Conference and RootsTech share expo hall, keynote sessions, and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening events. The two share two lecture tracks on Saturday on technology and DNA. Each offers their own set of extra cost luncheons. Full conference registrants of one conference can add the other for $39.

While generally the conferences run Thursday through Saturday (12-14 February 2014), both FGS and RootsTech have specialized events on Wednesday. FGS sponsors Focus on Societies Day for genealogical society officers, board members, and perennial volunteers. Focus on Societies is included in your regular FGS registration. RootsTech sponsors the Innovator Summit for software developers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. This event can be added to your RootsTech 3-day pass for $20. On Tuesday, ProQuest sponsors Librarians’ Day for $10.

While the special discount price expires today, early bird pricing continues through 23 January 2015.

Register now for RootsTech 2015

Register now for the FGS 2015 conference

Extra credit: This frame, below, from a RootsTech 2015 promotional video, captured several people I know at RootsTech 2014. In true Waldo fashion, if you know them, can you find them?

  • Myself (the suspenders and T-shirt give me away)
  • More than three official conference bloggers (including Renee, Randy, and Myrt)
  • FGS 2014 Conference chair (Ed)
  • More than three current and former FGS officers and board members (including Cherie, Gordon, and Mike)
  • More than two deputies to David Rencher, FamilySearch chief genealogical officer (including Fran and Elaine)
  • Retired president of OCLC and WorldCat (Jay Jordan)
  • Two general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Elder Bradley D. Foster and Elder Allan F. Packer)

The audience at RootsTech 2014 contains many people I know

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ancestry Insider Photographed at FGS Conference

A reader caught this photo of me at the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies conference:


New readers may not be aware that I am the Wilson of genealogy bloggers. Diane Haddad, the Genealogy Insider at Family Tree Magazine, started the tradition when she published this photograph of me:

Diane Haddad was the first person to ever photograph the Ancestry Insider
Diane Haddad, “Secret Genealogy Blogger Revealed! (Partially),” Genealogy Insider: Family Tree Magazine(http://blog.familytreemagazine.com/insider/2009/01/11/SecretGenealogyBloggerRevealedPartially.aspx : 11 January 2009).

Here are some other photos of me, several with famous people:

Thomas MacEntee and the Ancestry Insider at RootsTech 2012The Ancestry Insider with Family History Expo's Holly HansenThe Ancestry Insider listening to Aaron OrrThe Ancestry Insider in the NGS 2013 media centerThe Ancestry Insider discovers a strange new world at FGS 2013The Ancestry Insider at RootsTech 2013The Ancestry Insider and fellow bloggers at Ancestry.com's 2009 Blogger's DayChristmas photograph of the Ancestry InsiderThe Ancestry Insider Indexing History at FGS 2012Lisa Louise Cooke interviews the Ancestry InsiderThe Ancestry Insider's Holiday PicThe Ancestry Insider at the Findmypast booth at RootsTech 2013The Ancestry Insider with Capt'n Jack Starling at RootsTech 2014The Ancestry Insider at the 2009 St. George Family History Expo

There are also pictures of me on other bloggers’ websites:

DearMYRTLE's photo of the Ancestry Insider at RootsTech 2011DearMYRTLE, “AncestryInsider makes appearance at RootsTech 2011,” Dear MYRTLE (http://blog.dearmyrtle.com/2011/02/ancestryinsider-makes-appearance-at.html : 13 February 2011).
imageStephen J. Danko, “The Son of Blogger,” Steve’s Genealogy Blog (http://stephendanko.com/blog/4897 : 29 June 2009).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Genealogy at a Glance: Polish Genealogy Research

Genealogy At a Glance: Polish Genealogy Research, by Rosemary A. Dembinski ChorzemphaAfter my recent review of another At a Glance title, I pawed through my stack of things to do and looked at the other titles Genealogical Publishing Company has sent me over the years. If you’ll recall from my DNA results, I’m pretty homogenous, so I’m not really qualified to review many of their At a Glance titles. But I have a friend, David Ouimette, who’s an expert in Polish genealogy, so I thought I’d ask him what he thought about Genealogy At a Glance: Polish Genealogy Research, by Rosemary A. Dembinski Chorzempa.

David immediately brightened at the name of the author. Chorzempa authored Polish Roots, the book that he found invaluable in his first foray into Polish genealogy. After reading through the four pages, he gave a positive review. He said she’d covered the right information in each section. He liked the books she suggested, although he felt she had left off a couple of major ones:

  • Going Home : A Guide to Polish-American Family History Research by Jonathan D. Shea
  • Sto Lat: A Modern Guide to Polish Genealogy by Cecile Wendt Jensen

The reverse side of the sheet lists place names in English, Latin, Polish, and German. David thought it was very helpful to have those particular four languages, as they prove the most helpful. (Russian also shows up in some areas of Poland.) But he thought a list of words commonly found in records would have been a more valuable use of the space. (She provides translations of 12 common words, but only from Polish to English.) He thought she provided some “cool links,” some to websites he’d not seen before.

David finds it helpful to look at a subject through the different angles provided by different authors. Dembinski Chorzempa’s is one he recommends.

Genealogy at a Glance: Polish Genealogy Research
Rosemary A. Dembinski Chorzempa
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2013.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1968-1
Genealogical Publishing Company
1-800-296-6687, www.genealogical.com
$8.95 (list) plus shipping ($7.50, Fed Ex Ground).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Genealogy At a Glance: Scots-Irish Genealogy

Genealogy at a Glance: Scots-Irish Genealogy Research by Brian MitchellI don’t know why the Genealogical Publishing Company keeps sending me stuff for review. I don’t have time for a lot of reading and have a bookshelf full of titles I’ve begun but never finished. And I always give their Genealogy At a Glance reference sheets a bad review because the price per page is enormous. The single sheet of paper is folded in two and laminated, yielding four pages. I don’t often see them include reference type material. You know, the stuff I’m talking about. You view it over and over and have it within reach on your desk: the dictionary, Evidence Explained, and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy (I got to chapter 5).

However, when I received their latest offering, Genealogy at a Glance: Scots-Irish Genealogy Research by Brian Mitchell, a thought occurred to me. Maybe I’m approaching this series wrongly. Maybe I ought to see them as the perfect beginners’ manual for someone who has a bookshelf full of titles begun but not finished. I have a dead-end in my genealogy that seems to have both Scottish and Irish connections. Maybe I should give this one a try.

What I found was a helpful introduction for an absolute beginner to Scots-Irish research. I was a bit disappointed to find in the second paragraph that this guide was for pre-1800 immigrants. My brick wall is a 19th century immigrant. But I learned a lot about who the Scots-Irish are, where they came from, and what resources are available for researching them. As with any good four page introduction to a subject, this guide contains references to books for further information on different aspects of Scots-Irish research. I trust these are the best references in those areas. And it was not like those obnoxious conference syllabi that contain little else but a bibliography. I raised an eyebrow when the first book referenced was a book by the author himself, also published by the Genealogical Publishing Company. But that is to be expected assuming GPC approaches the foremost experts on subjects.

The guide began with the usual wasted space, a table of contents. Come on guys; this is a four page title. And it is bookended with 10 square inches of wasted space dedicated the equivalent of a title-page and back jacket: the name of the publisher, the copyright date, a marketing logo, and the UPC. In-between I was pleased to see the small margins and reasonable leading  befitting a four page reference work.

I’m surprised I’m giving my first positive review of an At a Glance title. Remember, I’m not an expert and can’t vouch for the choice or value of the information presented. But for an ever-so-brief introduction for someone of my attention span, I liked it.

Genealogy at a Glance: Scots-Irish Genealogy Research
Brian Mitchell
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2014.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1996-4
Genealogical Publishing Company
1-800-296-6687, www.genealogical.com
$8.95 (list) plus shipping ($7.50, Fed Ex Ground).