Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#NGS2014GEN Conference Pre-Registration Deadline

The Ancestry Insider is a member of the Official Social Media Press for NGS 2014If you’re planning on going to the 2014 National Genealogical Society’s 2014 annual conference, today is the last day to pre-register, but it is also the last day to buy meal tickets, social events, and workshops.

Here’s a press release I received from the NGS.

Registration for the NGS Conference
and All Ticketed Events
Closes 22 April 2014

Arlington, Va, 16 APRIL 2014: Have you registered for the NGS Family History Conference in Richmond? The deadline for pre-conference registration is 22 April 2014. Registration will be available on-site beginning at 12:00 noon, 6 May 2014, in the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Registration for all meals, social events, and workshops closes on 22 April 2014. No ticket purchases will be available on-site at the conference for meals, social events, or workshops. Likewise, registration for Librarians’ Day also closes on 22 April 2014. For conference information and to register, go to http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/attend/.

Breakfast, Luncheons, and the NGS Banquet

Participating organizations sponsor several luncheons during the conference. Seats are still available for several of the luncheons, the NGS First-Timers Breakfast, and the NGS Banquet. Make your reservations now at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/attend/. The NGS First-Timers Breakfast is $24, luncheons are $32, and the banquet is $51. Menus are in the registration brochure at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Registration-Brochure-Final-Rev-11.pdf.

Live Streaming

If you are unable to attend the NGS 2014 Family History Conference, ten lectures featuring some of the most popular topics and nationally known speakers will be available to you via live streaming.  Details about viewing the live streaming program and the costs can be found at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/attend/live-streaming-at-ngs2014gen/. Registration for the live streaming program closes on 30 April 2014.

Society Night

On Wednesday evening 7 May 2014, many Virginia genealogical and historical societies will be available in the Richmond Marriott from 5:15 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. to answer questions about local repositories and resources, discuss their group’s activities, and sell their publications.

Richmond Area Tours

There are a few seats left on the historical tours prior to the NGS 2014 Family History Conference through Richmond Discoveries’ Tours on Tuesday, 6 May 2014. To register go to http://www.richmonddiscoveries.com/ngs.php.  The password is NGS2014 and is case sensitive.

Add Items to an Existing Registration

To add meals to your current registration, log on at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org, click on My Account, select My Events, and then click to Add Sessions. To add pre-conference events, click on My Account and then select Upcoming Events.

You really don’t want to miss this year’s exciting conference program from 7–10 May at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and Richmond Marriott.

Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to genealogy education, high research standards, and the preservation of genealogical records.  The Arlington, Virginia, based nonprofit is the premier national society for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced family historian, seeking excellence in publications, educational offerings, research guidance, and opportunities to interact with other genealogists.  Please visit the NGS Pressroom for further information.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Hiding Dead Individuals Online

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

We living genealogists place dead ancestors on various websites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, and RootsWeb World Connect.  We collect every shred of information we can on our living relatives and place it in our PAF or FTM or whatever genealogy program.  However, because of privacy concerns, we truncate and do not post that information on-line.  If we don't truncate that information, the FamilySearch or Ancestry.com, or Rootsweb World Connect website does it for us. 

Question: Will these companies eventually put all the information we have collected on these now living persons on line at some future time, say 75 years, like the census?  I'd hate to have collected it all, then have it lost to posterity.  How can we handle these situations to assure eventual access to the next generations?

Charles R. Heath II

Dear Charles,

That’s an interesting question. It made me think. If Ancestry.com or FamilySearch automatically hides persons in our trees which they consider living, will those persons automatically reappear at some future day?

I asked Ancestry.com and FamilySearch what rules they use to automatically hide people in trees. I asked if there was a certain age past which they are no longer considered dead.

FamilySearch did not respond.

Ancestry.com spokesperson, Matthew Deighton, wrote that Ancestry.com “hides anyone who does not have a death date and who is less than 100 years old.” He also pointed me to an Ancestry.com blog article, “Living people in your family tree,” which goes into the issue in more detail. Basically, you can explicitly specify that a person is living. Or Ancestry.com will assume they are living using the rule Deighton mentioned.

Unfortunately, neither Deighton nor the article addressed the issue of the passage of time. 

Once flagged as living, is a person in the tree forever hidden, even when they are older than 100 years? My guess is that a person explicitly flagged as living will continue to be considered living forever if you never enter a death date. Your desire to have this information eventually public will be thwarted.

I further guess that if implicitly treated as living because the age is less than 100, that such an individual will be considered dead when they reach the age of 100. If that’s the case, be careful what you say about your living relatives. What you write may one day be visible to the general public. To keep a comment private forever, use the “Add a Note” feature. Notes can be seen only by yourself and others that you give Editor permission to.

Charles, your desire to have your living people revealed after your death—after they are too old to still be living, of course—touches on another issue facing the online public. After you die, what happens to your online information? You don’t need to be an Ancestry.com subscriber to have a tree on Ancestry.com. Your tree there will persist until you remove it. If you leave it up and you and your heirs never come back, presumably Ancestry.com will leave it there forever.

Thanks for your thought provoking question.

The Ancestry Insider

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Short Easter Greeting

My goal is to make this blog inoffensive to readers of all religions and denominations. On this Easter morning, permit me a short aside. Mormons—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—do genealogy “because of Him.” If you want more information, visit http://easter.mormon.org/.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

FamilySearch Obituary Search

imageA couple of people have pointed me to https://familysearch.org/obituaries/. This is a useful little page for searching for obituaries on FamilySearch.org, 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 FamilySearch.org website reported that bookmarked URLs to images on FamilySearch.org 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. https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X79S-N78). 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 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-36329-6301-93 : 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.