Friday, August 29, 2008

Database review: Historic Land Ownership Atlases

Earlier this week I've reviewed two free, online map collections. See "The Marshall Historical Maps Collection" and "Maps online from the New York Public Library". Today, I'd like to examine two of the map databases in's collections.

Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000

The source information for the Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000 database identifies the source of the original data as Historic Map Works, LLC. This is an excellent collection of high resolution, full color cadastral maps. Cadastral maps, sometimes called land ownership maps, list the owners' or residents' names on the maps. The card catalog gives a name count estimate of 42,855 names. I think in actuality, this is the number of maps in this collection. The number of names may be much more since each cadastral map contains many names. If you have ancestors living in New England around the time of our country's first centennial, there's a good chance they're named in one of the Beers atlases in this collection.

I also enjoy these maps for the handiwork in their production. The color in these atlases was hand water-colored, making each map in each atlases absolutely unique. I've reproduced below the same detail from the map of Hamilton Town, Madison County, New York that I showed earlier in the week from the New York Public Library. Compare the two and see if you can see differences along the color edges. Can you imagine what it would cost today to produce hand-colored maps? Wow!

Compare this detail from a Madison County atlas map to the one from New York Public Library.

I've only had a little experience with atlases of federal land states in this time period. My experience there has been that names are not included. You'll have to look up a land description of your ancestors' property separately and then consult the map to see your ancestors' property in context. I have no experience with the southern state atlases so I looked at an example or two. It looked like the map coverage of the collection is not as good, but owner names were included on the maps I checked.

I absolutely love this collection and I think you will too.

U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918

Prior to obtaining Historic Map Works' collection, put together a similar map database from Library of Congress microfilm. The database, U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918, is black and white since it is digitized from microfilm. This database is outclassed in pretty much every way by the Historic Map Works database.

This detail covers the same area as the one above.

It appears from the card catalog that this collection contains 33,404 maps, almost 25% less than the Historic Map Works collection. But that doesn't mean every map in this database can be found in the Historic Map Works database. If you find a map in this collection that you can find in color on the previously mentioned websites and databases, you'll probably find the color version to be aesthetically superior. But if you can't find your map in color, you may find the map in this database to be more than suitable for your genealogical needs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

NFS rollout update for 26-Aug-2008

Did the Olympics closing ceremony make you sad? Yeah, me too. What's it going to be like when New FamilySearch (NFS) is rolled out to all temple districts? Whoa, that's a thought. But, we're still in the middle, and I always look forward to what the map may look like after it has been updated. Two weeks and eight temples. Let's see what we've got...

New FamilySearch Rollout Map for 26-Aug-2008

Central America and the Caribbean

In Central America and the Caribbean, Tampico Mexico and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) went live. Since Mexico City is closed for remodeling, this means ALL 15 OPERATING TEMPLES IN THIS AREA ARE LIVE! I understand Mexico City will be rededicated on 16-Nov-2008 and when it opens it will be on NFS.

South America

Ecuador went live and I corrected the color of Lima, showing it is live. Out of 14 temples, this leaves Bolivia, JUST ONE TEMPLE TO GO! Bolivia is one of the three remaining temples in my list of temples that we've not heard any rumors about. One would have to assume they're within their 120 day window, but we just haven't heard confirmation from anyone.


Fiji and Tonga went live in Oceania. Out of 13 temples, this just leaves New Zealand, JUST ONE TEMPLE TO GO! New Zealand is another of the three temples we've not heart a word about. Come on, people. This is an English speaking district. Someone ought to have heard there what's going down.

Europe and Africa

No changes in Europe or Africa these past two weeks. All of the 13 temples but three are live. To be consistent, I have to shout that. (Plug your ears.) JUST THREE TEMPLES TO GO! London has an official rumor for 16-Sep-2008. By date calculation, Preston would be the same. And Nigeria? It is the last of the three temples in my "No News" list .

That just leaves the Orient. I've not heard nare so such as a peep about the Orient—other than that thing they were covering on television. What was it called again? Oh yeah: the Olympics.

Let's see... Did I leave anybody out? ... No, I don't think so. OK, then. Good bye and see you next time.

Until Next Time

Just kidding, of course. In North America (outside the red zone):

  • Edmonton, South Carolina and Palmyra New York went live.
  • Canada now has four live and two to go. For Quebec and Saskatchewan, they will hit three months in September and four months in October since receiving their transition notification.
  • Lately, local leaders have been hearing their go-live date two weeks prior.
  • East of the Mississippi I counted 13 of 17 temples live. (I was too lazy to figure out which side of the Mississippi Baton Rouge was on, but I figured no one would actually check my counting, so I could include it here without anyone being the wiser.) Georgia and Kentucky are expected on 9 Sep 2008. Washington and Tennessee are expected some time in September, but I don't remember anyone saying.
  • From the Mississippi to the Sierra Nevada I think I counted 11 of 14 temples done. St. Paul is rumored to be 9 Sep 2008 and Denver on 16 Sep 2008. Since their transition notification, Oklahoma will hit 3-months in September and 4-months in October.
  • California is 7 for 7.
  • The Northwest is 0 for 6. But, Columbia River will be 9 Sep 2008. All the rest have been notified they are in transition and are hitting the 3 and 4 month marks. Seattle was notified about 5 Jun 2008. Spokane came a week later. Portland, Medford Oregon and Alaska received word a week after that.

Now I think that's everyone, excepting the red zone.

The Red Zone

Last week I wrote about my theory that Utah, Idaho and Vegas ought to be hearing word soon, if we were to see NFS released live this year. (See "New FamilySearch 0.94 on the way?") Remember that no news is bad news only if it follows the release of NFS 0.94. Since we're still waiting for 0.94 (as of Wednesday night when I'm writing this), we still don't know if we're looking at good news or bad news. My guess is, if they thought the red zone was an impossible goal for 2008, it wouldn't matter quite so much what features made it into version 0.94. I'm only guessing here. I don't know and I don't speak for FamilySearch. If they are holding 0.94 because it's become unstable, then the red zone is still at risk.

If they are holding 0.94 for essential red zone features, then there's still a chance! I hope we know soon. Let me know when you know. (Please, don't tell me anything you're not supposed too.) Write me at

Papeete Tahiti Apia Samoa Nuku alofa Tonga Suva Fiji Johannesburg South Africa Aba Nigeria Accra Ghana Anchorage Alaska Edmonton Alberta Cardston Alberta Kona Hawaii Manila Philippines Hong Kong China Taipei Taiwan Seoul Korea Fukuoka Japan Tokyo Japan Cebu Philippines Hamilton New Zealand Melbourne Australia Adelaide Australia Perth Australia Brisbane Australia Sydney Australia Laie Hawaii Santiago Chile Montevideo Uruguay Buenos Aires Argentina Asunción Paraguay Porto Alegre Brazil Curitiba Brazil Campinas Brazil São Paulo Brazil Recife Brazil Cochabamba Bolivia Lima Peru Guayaquil Ecuador Bogotá Colombia Caracas Venezuela Manaus Brazil Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Guatemala City Guatemala San Jose Costa Rica Panama City Panama Quetzaltenango Guatemala San Salvador El Salvador Tegucigalpa Honduras Mérida México Villahermosa México Tuxtla Gutiérrez México Oaxaca México Veracruz México México City México Guadalajara México Tampico México Monterrey México Hermosillo Sonora México Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Ciudad Juárez México Madrid Spain Bern Switzerland The Hague Netherlands Preston England London England Frankfurt Germany Freiberg Germany Kiev Ukraine Copenhagen Denmark Stockholm Sweden Helsinki Finland Vancouver British Columbia Regina Saskatchewan Halifax Nova Scotia Montreal Quebec Toronto Ontario Palmyra New York Boston Massachusetts Manhattan New York Washington D.C. Louisville Kentucky Memphis Tennessee Nashville Tennessee Raleigh North Carolina Columbia South Carolina Atlanta Georgia Birmingham Alabama Orlando Florida Detroit Michigan Kirtland Columbus Ohio Chicago Illinois Nauvoo Illinois St. Louis Missouri Winter Quarters Nebraska St. Paul Minnesota Bismarck North Dakota Oklahoma City Oklahoma Lubbock Texas Dallas Texas Houston Texas San Antonio Texas Baton Rouge Louisiana Denver Colorado Billings Montana Boise Idaho Twin Falls Idaho Rexburg Idaho Idaho Falls Idaho Albuquerque New Mexico Snowflake Arizona Gila Valley Arizona Gilbert Arizona Phoenix Arizona Mesa Arizona Spokane Washington Columbia River Washington Seattle Washington Portland Oregon Medford Oregon Reno Nevada Las Vegas Nevada Fresno California Sacramento California Oakland Californai Redlands Californai Los Angeles California Newport Beach Californai San Diego California St. George Utah Monticello Utah Vernal Utah Logan Utah Manti Utah Provo Utah Mount Timpanogos Utah Draper Utah Salt Lake Bountiful Utah Ogden Utah Jordan River Utah Oquirrh Mountain Utah

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Did Replace Me?

It has been a month since I left and it's been rather fun watching the want ads to see if they replaced me. Some positions I've seen advertised that might have been me:

  • logo Senior Product Manager for the product. Did someone leave the company after the missteps of the 2.0 product strategy? Software ages. I've written about this before. It has a lifetime and eventually has to be thrown out and rewritten. The rewrite of was done correctly and successfully. No one even knew it occurred. The rewrites for 2.0 and Family Tree Maker 2008 were not. With products with large installed audiences, it is important that you make user interface improvements gradually and optionally. And almost no amount of additional features will make up for the loss of old ones. Rewrites are best done incrementally, so you don't waste an entire development cycle and end up with no new functionality. If all that isn't enough to conclude this was not the position I vacated, the position is located in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Field Operations Imaging Manager, Washington, D.C. You know, of course, about the partnership. This must not be me; this must be a new position. Nice to see things happening in's efforts to digitize original records onsite at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
  • Customer Research Director, San Francisco or Salt Lake City. "This position would report to the VP of Marketing in San Francisco." Did you know that the Generations Network's VP of Marketing was in San Francisco? I don't recall if that's public knowledge, so let's look to LinkedIn and Google so I can avoid breaking my non-disclosure agreement with TGN. A Google search discloses several current and former VPs of marketing. If her LinkedIn profile is up to date, Cheyenne Richards is VP of Marketing for the Generations Network in the San Francisco Bay Area. Apparently, the customer research director position can work at either the San Francisco or Salt Lake City offices.
  • RootsWeb logo Software Engineer - / Is this an expansion or a replacement? As a long-time RootsWebber, I'm always happy to see RootsWeb getting attention. I'll bet subscribers feel the same way. From this listing we learn, apparently, these websites are written in Perl, C++ and PHP. The operating system is Linux or Solaris. The databases are mySQL or Oracle. The web server is Apache. The team of software developers is small. For those that feel RootsWeb and (as it is affectionately called by team members) is overshadowed by, the help wanted ad begins with a poke in the eye. "[TGN] properties ... include,,, and Family Tree Maker. The flagship brand - is the undisputed global leader in online family history." But everyone can't work on the undisputed leader. So we'd like you to apply for a position working on the second-best websites.
  • Senior Software Engineer - Sites Team, Provo, UT or Salt Lake City, UT. From this listing we learn that work for the site is based in Provo. Why then, does the ad list Salt Lake City as a location? Does it mean TGN is planning to move to Salt Lake? The simpler explanation is that TGN wants the ad to show up in job searches for Salt Lake City. This position includes responsibility for the "logged in home page" which apparently is coded in Microsoft's C#. The web server is ASP.NET. Developers use the Agile development process. apparently uses or plans to use web services and service oriented architecture (SOA), XML and Web 2.0.
  • Search Engine Software Developer. "This position will play a major role in the development and maintenance of the next generation search engine technology." Kendall Hulet has said a future improvement to the search engine would add the ability to reject search results with obvious mismatches to your input. The current search engine ranks results by matches to your input but isn't able to penalize mismatches. Apparently the search engine will use Microsoft Windows Servers, C++. "This position will also help coordinate efforts of indexing and deploying content."
  • Software Engineer - Digital Preservation. "This position will play a major role in the development and maintenance of the next generation content processing pipeline, which includes automated and manual tools for the extraction of text from historical documents (i.e. OCR, keying, auditing). This position will include researching, designing, and implementing features and tools that will enhance productivity and ensure high quality of the extracted data."
  • Logo Public Relations Manager, UK. United Kingdom? This must not be me. Although I wouldn't mind visiting England often.
  • Web Analytics Implementation Engineer (expired). That's rather harsh, don't you think?

There were several others that I wanted to comment on, but I'm afraid I've waited too long and the job's have been filled. I found a job posting website that was rather... pretty. Video, sound, slide show of scenes inside and out the Provo headquarters. People I know. As you can see, we've got old photographs from our... I mean their... photography collections. The ping pong and other game tables really are in a narrow glass hallway with magnificent Mount Timpanogos towering nearby. TGN was a great place to work. Great environment. Great people. Great mission. Great leadership. Great company.

I am grate-full.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maps online from the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library (NYPL) website descriptions of its Image Collections include mentions of several with maps.

Image of title page, Atlas of Madison County, Beers.To uncover the maps across all these collections, one may wish to use search rather than browse. A subject search for "Maps" returns 834 subjects containing the word "Maps." Be warned that not all images have a subject assignment, so a keyword search or advanced search is the safer route.

New York State County and City Atlases

The NYPL recently digitized 43 state, county and city atlases covering New York and New Jersey prior to 1900. The NYPL map division has more than 420 titles from this period. I read somewhere on the NYPL website that many of these atlases were in response to the 1876 centennial. I had always assumed it was somehow an outgrowth of the end of the Civil War.

Many of these maps are cadastral in nature. That is, they contain the names of the owners. I imagine most of the cadastral maps for New York that one must pay to see on can be viewed without charge on the NYPL website.

Detail from a Madison County atlas map showing location of dwellings and names of residents.
Detail from a Madison County atlas map showing location of dwellings and names of residents.

See this page for a list of digital holdings from this series. You might prefer viewing the maps with the LizardTech MrSID plugin using Internet Explorer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Marshall Historical Maps Collection

BristolTownship1905S Have you ever used historic United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps? I love maps anyway, but I think historic maps give me a better understanding of the environments my ancestors lived in.

Were I to do a doctorate in genealogical studies, I think my dissertation would be a comparison of historic migration routes and turn of the 20th century roads. My theory is that the further back in time one goes, the more our road system reflects the actual pathways used in earliest times. I figure just before the invention of the automobile... But I digress...


While current USGS maps are easy to obtain, historic USGS maps are not. Christopher Marshall, a railroad enthusiast in New Hampshire found this to be the case and started traveling around the state, digitizing USGS maps. Marshall's collection grew into the University of New Hampshire's (UNH) Dimond Library Government Documents Department Historic USGS Maps collection. First with statewide coverage, coverage grew until it covered all New England. New York came next.

By this time Marshall's Collection was extending beyond UNH's New England focus, and Marshall was looking for a new home. Through a fellow rail enthusiast, Marshall learned of Maptech, which agreed to host the growing Marshall Historical Maps Collection. Access the collection at

The online collection now includes over 2000 USGS topographic maps and has complete geographical coverage of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland from the 1890s to the 1950s. Much of Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio are covered. It is slowly being expanded as time permits through volunteer efforts. If you would like to help, contact Chris Marshall through Maptech's e-mail address:


Positions on the Earth are measured using latitude and longitude. Latitude is measured in degrees from 0 to 180 degrees east or west of London, England. Longitude is also measured in degrees from 0 to 90 degrees north or south of the equator. Can you see that in both cases, 360 degrees makes a complete circle around the Earth? And in both cases, smaller distances are measured by subdividing one degree into 60 minutes.

This extract shows the detail level a 7.5 minute series map.
This extract shows the detail
level of a 7.5 minute series map.

USGS maps cover a particular rectangle of the Earth's surface, or since the Earth isn't flat, it is more correctly called a quadrangle. Quadrangles are aligned by degree or fractions of a degree, sometimes cutting cities or other features of interest onto different maps. For example, Manchester, New Hampshire is cut up onto 4 different maps!

Each quadrangle was named by the USGS, generally from some significant feature within the quadrangle. Names are only unique within the state and map series. For example, both Vermont and Massachusetts have a Barre quadrangle. Sometimes the names were changed when new editions were created.

7.5 Minute Series

The series of maps that covered a 7.5 by 7.5 minute quadrangle are called 7.5 minute series maps. These are the most recent and the most detailed maps in the Marshall Collection. Most of the 7.5 minute maps in the collection are of southern New England and were published in the late 1930s until the mid 1950s.

15 Minute Series

This extract shows the detail level of a 15 minute series map.
Contrast the detail in this 15 minute series
example, which has been enlarged to match
the size of the 7.5 example. Ignore growth
in human features. Notice swamps,
contour lines and waterways.

The Marshall Collection contains complete coverage of New England in this series. The 15 minute series includes the oldest maps in the collection. The south was complete by 1900, but parts of Vermont and New Hampshire weren't complete until the 1920s and parts of Maine were later than that.

30 Minute Series

The maps in this series are the oldest and least detailed in the Marshall Collection. Very few appear to exist, as the USGS seems to have switched to publishing 15 minute maps around 1900.

Collection Finding Aids

Each state in the Marshall Collection includes an Image Map that shows the state divided into rectangles (er... quadrangles). Click on a quadrangle to link to a web page that lists available maps for that area of the state.

The collection also supplies an index by quadrangle name.  Since cities don't have dedicated quadrangles, the quad index is pretty useless for the casual user. A town index is supplied for each state to make it easier to locate towns/townships.

Most maps were scanned as four sections to keep the image size about 1.5 megabytes. That's big enough to make downloads slow, but small enough to make downloads reasonable.

(Sources: UNH's About Page and Maptech's About Page.)

Friday, August 22, 2008 adds YouTube channel

I'm still trying to catch up on all that happened while I was gone on vacation.

On 15-July-2008 established a YouTube Channel. The address is

It currently contains a playlist of seven commercials, one video and twelve favorites. Here's a detail from part of their page:

Detail from's YouTube channel

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Job change backwash

Trouble in River City

Seven Peaks Water Park by sudweeksFrankly, I thought I could go with the flow. Slide by. But in hindsight it seems I was all wet.

My job change had caused a situation and now I was in hot water.

A couple of days ago FamilySearch sent out a notice for their Summer family activity. For years my kids have loved the annual Summer party at the local water park. 500,000 gallon wave pool. "Lazy River." Sixteen water slides. GIANT half-pipe (where I learned I can still scream like a young girl). The largest water park in the state.

I made the mistake of forwarding the FamilySearch Summer Party announcement to the kids.

We are pleased to announce a Family History Department family event coming up on ... We have received special permission to open up the Family History Library that evening for this event. ... This will be a wonderful opportunity to connect your family to the important work of the department, including the exciting things happening with new FamilySearch, Record Search, Indexing, and the Wiki.

Keep in mind, I'm new. For all I know, FamilySearch had rented Disneyland and flown everyone down earlier in the summer. ("Yay! You got NFS out to the first 50 temples ahead of schedule! What are you going to do now?!")

Still, what could I have possibly been thinking when I forwarded the announcement to 3 kids who refuse to go to the state capital to see an original first printing Declaration of Independence because it doesn't have a treasure map on the back? These are the same children whose top attraction in Washington, D. C. was the hotel pool.

"Wow, Dad!" The sarcasm had started. "Special permission to open the library?! I hope there'll be classes on watching paint dry!" When it comes to museums and libraries, my kids are fish out of water.

"Ooh! When did you start doing exciting things?!" I was in way over my head.

Anybody out there want to accompany me to the FamilySearch activity, proxy for my children? Drop by and let me know. You'll find me floating asleep on a double tube, baseball cap over my face, the 3 most wonderful fish in all the world frolicking happily about me.

Water under the bridge, baby. Water under the bridge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Database review:'s U.S. Map Collection, 1513-1990's map collection contains several large databases. In this article I examine one of them, the U.S. Map Collection, 1513-1990.

Source Information

Genealogists specify sources so that others can verify their information. This made it really frustrating when's source information seemed designed to prevent someone from finding the original records. NARA series numbers were always left out. NARA titles were always reworded. Web addresses were never specified for data downloaded from free online sources.

I don't know if they really did try and make it difficult to find the original sources for their information, but I've noticed that lately they have really been doing a good job specifying source information. Unfortunately, the U.S. Map Collection, 1513-1990 must have been done in the ol', careless days. The source information says that the original data came from, "See source or bibliographical info attached to each map." Then, when one views the source or bibliographical information attached to an individual map it states, "See source or bibliographical info attached to each map."

When I came across a map that I had previously downloaded from the Library of Congress (LOC), I wondered if had obtained some of this map collection from the public domain maps on the LOC website. I tried looking on the LOC site for about a half-dozen maps from this collection and found all of them on the LOC site.

Frankly, it doesn't bother me to have gather up all the public domain stuff on the Internet and incorporate it into their website. I love the convenience. If they are trying to hide the true source, which I don't know is the case, that would bother me.

Illegible Resolution

What does bother me in this case is they seem to have copied these maps from the Library of Congress and then dumbed them down to a lower resolution. Unfortunately, the lower resolution makes the maps illegible.

Take for example, "A map of Lewis and Clark's track..." Click one of the links below to see the map on

Zoom in as close as possible on the mouth of the Columbia River. Notice that little, if any, of the small text can be deciphered.

Detail from an copy of an LOC map.
Note the text is illegible.

Compare it to the same map at LOC website. Zoom in to a level comparable to the maximum level. Notice that most, if not all, of the small text is legible. Also note that you can zoom in even one step further!

Detail from the original LOC map.
Note that all the text is legible.

The moral? If you find an illegible map that you need in the U.S. Map Collection, 1513-1990, search for it at the Library of Congress and you may find a legible copy of the map.

FamilySearch Record Search adds Florida census, more

FamilySearch added over 2 million new images or indexed records this week to its pilot Record Search databases this week. Florida 1885, 1935 and 1945 census have been restored. Lima, Peru Vital records have been restored and user guidance added. West Virginia Marriages have been updated and Births and Deaths will be restored shortly.

Users can search these databases for free online at

Project Name Indexed Records Digital Images Type Comments
WWII Draft Reg. Cards   1.7 million Images One new state: Ohio
1930 Mexico Census 314,548 104,849 Index One new state: Coahulia
West Virginia Vital Records (Marriages) 306,782   Index 14 new counties
Lima, Peru Civil Registration   134,664 Images User guidance added
1885 FL State Census   8,468 Images New collection
1935 FL State Census   36,019 Images New collection
1945 FL State Census   51,686 Images New collection

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ancestry's Keying Tool "Achieves Its First Milestones"

Image Ancestry uses to brand its World Archives Project Participants in the limited beta test of Ancestry's World Archives Project keying tool received an e-mail last Tuesday informing participants that "the World Archives Project achieve[d] its first milestones." Ancestry shared these project milestones:

  • "Limited beta test has 650 active keyers
  • More than 100,000 records have been indexed
  • Our top keyer has indexed over 17,500 records
  • The Wisconsin mortality records project is more than 60% complete and [is] on track for a September completion date"

Ancestry has also added several enhancements to the keying tool. Since the tool is not web-based, the executable files on the user's computer have to be updated to get the enhancements. However, when the user starts the program, the update occurs automatically.

Keying tool is automatically upgraded when needed

Ancestry mentioned these new enhancements:

  • Update field highlights by dragging
  • Wildcards for finding name suggestions
  • Auto-complete feature
  • File > Options to set highlight color, other options
  • Dashboard showing individual, project and top-performers progress

The new World Archives Project dashboard

As of last Friday (I'm writing this several days before you'll read it), the top keyer has gone way past the 17,500 figure from the e-mail. As the dashboard shows, above, she's now past 23,500!! That's an additional 6,000 names in 3 or 4 days. Wow! I know that when you try it you find it more fun than it sounds. It's actually kind of addicting. But that's a lot of work for in any case!

If you'd like to get in on the fun, you may not have to wait much longer. Ancestry plans on opening the beta test to the general public shortly. To register your interest, click here. Since the Windows-based Ancestry keying tool runs on your computer, Mac and Linux users will have to stick with FamilySearch Indexing for now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New FamilySearch 0.94 on the way?

As I predicted last week, an update would be coming 15-August or soon thereafter. Sure enough. On the 15th this notice appeared on

Image from NFS login page next to announcement New FamilySearch will be down for maintenance on the following dates:

August 18th 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM MDT
August 25th 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM MDT
August 31st 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM MDT

In other words, NFS will be down the first hour of each day on Monday, 18-August; Monday, 25-August and Sunday, 31-August. I wonder about that last one. Will FamilySearch be working on Sunday? Is it a typographical error? Should it be Monday, 1-September? Of course someone in Virginia is working every Sunday, shepherding the server farm. If a server starts blowing smoke, someone has to be there to unplug it.

Icon link to list of recent NFS updatesHistory of New FamilySearch Releases

Underneath the announcement is the regular link to view recent updates. From this source (and others, as linked) we can put together the history of NFS releases. Working backwards in time, they are:

  • 15-Aug-2008? - Version 0.94 - I searched the publicly accessible knowledge base to see if any information has already been released about the upcoming release. KB #104359 discloses that the preference to see only your own contributions is being removed because it is slowing down everyone but the option is used by too few users to make it worth the slow down Removing the option speeds up 97% of the screens in NFS.
  • 18-Jun-2008 - Version 0.93? - Interim release deployed on 29- and 30-June. I've never seen any official word on this intermediate release, but immediately afterwards users started seeing error messages when combining two individuals would result in an individual with more than 85 constituent records. (See KB #104044.)
  • 19-May-2008 - Version 0.93 - Fixes for Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese bugs. (Also see KB #103512.)
  • 15-Feb-2008 - Version 0.92 - Users rather than system choose which information to show in summary view. Individuals choose which set of parents to show in pedigree view. Easier way to request corrections to deceased individual membership records. New changes to help combine duplicates. New changes to help un-combine duplicates. Limit IOUS problems by warning and restriction on GEDCOM import. (Also see KB #102950.)
  • 15-Nov-2007 - Version 0.91 - Telephone number or e-mail address needed for registration. Easier search results. See all sources for an individual. New person identifiers. Allow editing of notes larger than 300 characters. System for claiming legacy information. More easily combine duplicate records. Reject GEDCOM files from Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File and the IGI (duh!). (Also see New Features in .91.)
  • 26-Jun-2007 - Version 0.9 - Released to St. Louis Missouri temple district. (See What's New.)
  • 15-Dec-2005 - Version 0.9, Beta I.

You must be logged in to New FamilySearch to use some of the links, above.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Census Image Quality

Just as making a photocopy of a photocopy degrades the quality, so too does a copy of a microfilm copy. The prospect of having access to digital scans of NARA's U.S. census master microfilms is a delightful thought, indeed. If I have not spoken of it before, it is because I was afraid I would awaken myself from this dream! (If that doesn't sound like my typically dull prose, I must beg forgiveness. My daughter is watching a Jane Austen video.)

I've found the chief beneficiary of the first generation scans to be pages cursed with cellophane tape. And the best candidate for cellophane tape is the first page of each county. I thought to give you an example or two from the 1900 census but, alas,'s second generation scans are already gone. Instead, I give you an example from the 1920 census, Illinois, Adams County, Ursa Township, enumeration district 62, sheet 6A.

Left: 1st generation. Right: 2nd generation

The left half of the image is the scan of the 1st generation microfilm made by FamilySearch. The right half of the image is the scan of the 2nd generation microfilm made by The left is superior in sense and situation.


This is not to say that there will be no glitches. There are bound to be particular images that end up being worse. If image quality is not up to snuff and FamilySearch indexers aren't confident enough to return pages for re-scanning, then they may sneak through into the finished product.

Here is an example from the 1870 census, Utah Territory, Cache County, Wellsville, page no. 1.

A light, blurry image from FamilySearch's pilot site
A light, blurry image from FamilySearch's pilot site

A clearer, albeit skewed image from
A clearer, albeit skewed image from

In this case, it is not the FamilySearch image, but the image that has the upper hand. I imagine this to leave some of you quite speechless. Yes, quite speechless, and I expect that you have not stopped talking of it since.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NFS Rollout News for Olympic 12-Aug-2008

Having passed the opening of the Olympics on 08/08/08 since our last map update, it is only fitting that 8 temples have gone "gold" and I've updated or added release dates for 8 temples.

New FamilySearch Rollout Map for 12-Aug-2008

North America

North of the Rio Grande, Nauvoo took the Gold. Poor Nauvoo, the original rollout plan had them as one of the first four. Palmyra, another location prominent in Church history, is also rolling out this month. (BTW, I saw both pageants during my vacation last month.) South Carolina and Edmonton are the other two north-of-the-Rio temples known to be rolling this month, followed by Kentucky on 9 Sep 2008 and Spokane on 30 Sep 2008.

Since the rollout has often taken hiatus for U.S. holidays before, it makes me wonder if Labor Day's 2 Sep 2008 will also have no rollouts.

South of the Rio, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Mérida Yucatan earned Gold Medals for México as well as newly dedicated Panamá City Panamá. Tampico México is known to be going live this month, leaving México City as México's sole non-NFS temple. Santo Domingo on the island nation of the Dominican Republic is favored to take a Gold this month.

Polynesia and South America

Here's the results for other island nations in the competition. Tahiti took a Gold and Fiji, the Crossroads of Polynesia, is expected to bring home a medal before the end of the month. That leaves the Friendly Island of Tonga and New Zealand, Land of the Long White Cloud. (No, I didn't see the PCC last month on my vacation.)

Uruguay was the only South American country to bring home a Gold since the last map update. So far, Bolivia and Ecuador are underdogs; no rollout information has been heard about them. (While Lima is not shown in green on the map, it should be. I'll try to remember to fix that next time.)

Africa and Europe

Africa remains stalled waiting on Nigeria.

Netherlands and Sweden brought home the gold in Europe, completing the continent! Actually, I've said before that I won't consider Europe done until London goes Gold on 16 Sept 2008 and Preston goes Gold on... Well, I've actually never heard a date for Preston. I think both were notified at the same time, so both may go Gold at the same time.

The Orient

The last word we had on the orient was unofficial word that Hong Kong would probably not make it in 2008. I can only guess that if one non-Roman language is delayed, all non-Roman languages are delayed. On the other hand, maybe the delay is such that some will happen this year and some next. I've heard no public pronouncement.

I wasn't able to make it to the BYU conference this past month, so I don't know if anyone from FamilySearch said anything publicly about the organization's goals. That's always been a good source of information in the past. Did any of you attend and hear anything stated publicly? At the March BYU conference earlier this year, at least one FamilySearch presenter mentioned that the department goal was still to finish the rollout this year. Which brings me to...

Idaho and Utah

And, yes, don't forget Las Vegas.

What temples will FamilySearch get done before the end of the year? Will any Idaho, Utah or Las Vegas temples make it? We should know soon. We're only about 140 days away from the end of the year. Of late, districts have been getting their transition announcements 120 days in advance. Historically, we've seen 90 days as the standard, but Billings got just 2 weeks. When the announcement comes for one of these temples, hundreds (thousands?) of family history consultants will get access.

These are the temples I've long surmised to be on hold until the IOUS issue was resolved, so you can't hardly give notice for one of them until the issue is resolved. FamilySearch has made it known that they are doing regular updates to New FamilySearch (NFS). It has been reported on the Internet that the updates come quarterly, midway through each calendar quarter. Thus, we saw updates occur about 15 Nov 2007, 15 Feb 2008 and 15 May 2008. Mind you, they didn't seem to occur exactly on the 15th. Still, according to this schedule, resolution of the IOUS issue could only occur at about two points in the remainder of this year: 15 Aug 2008 and 15 Nov 2008. The latter is well into the holiday season when it would be difficult to do any training or other rollout activities. If they get it fixed for this month's release, I think they can finish off all the temples (sans Orient) this year.

We should know in the next couple of weeks—maybe even the next couple of days. Do I know something you don't? Nope. I'm in the dark on this also. I'm on pins and needles, folks! This is 2008 do or die!! Let me know the moment you get your notice!!!

As always, I'm at

Papeete Tahiti Apia Samoa Nuku alofa Tonga Suva Fiji Johannesburg South Africa Aba Nigeria Accra Ghana Anchorage Alaska Edmonton Alberta Cardston Alberta Kona Hawaii Manila Philippines Hong Kong China Taipei Taiwan Seoul Korea Fukuoka Japan Tokyo Japan Cebu Philippines Hamilton New Zealand Melbourne Australia Adelaide Australia Perth Australia Brisbane Australia Sydney Australia Laie Hawaii Santiago Chile Montevideo Uruguay Buenos Aires Argentina Asunción Paraguay Porto Alegre Brazil Curitiba Brazil Campinas Brazil São Paulo Brazil Recife Brazil Cochabamba Bolivia Lima Peru Guayaquil Ecuador Bogotá Colombia Caracas Venezuela Manaus Brazil Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Guatemala City Guatemala San Jose Costa Rica Panama City Panama Quetzaltenango Guatemala San Salvador El Salvador Tegucigalpa Honduras Mérida México Villahermosa México Tuxtla Gutiérrez México Oaxaca México Veracruz México México City México Guadalajara México Tampico México Monterrey México Hermosillo Sonora México Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Ciudad Juárez México Madrid Spain Bern Switzerland The Hague Netherlands Preston England London England Frankfurt Germany Freiberg Germany Kiev Ukraine Copenhagen Denmark Stockholm Sweden Helsinki Finland Vancouver British Columbia Regina Saskatchewan Halifax Nova Scotia Montreal Quebec Toronto Ontario Palmyra New York Boston Massachusetts Manhattan New York Washington D.C. Louisville Kentucky Memphis Tennessee Nashville Tennessee Raleigh North Carolina Columbia South Carolina Atlanta Georgia Birmingham Alabama Orlando Florida Detroit Michigan Kirtland Columbus Ohio Chicago Illinois Nauvoo Illinois St. Louis Missouri Winter Quarters Nebraska St. Paul Minnesota Bismarck North Dakota Oklahoma City Oklahoma Lubbock Texas Dallas Texas Houston Texas San Antonio Texas Baton Rouge Louisiana Denver Colorado Billings Montana Boise Idaho Twin Falls Idaho Rexburg Idaho Idaho Falls Idaho Albuquerque New Mexico Snowflake Arizona Gila Valley Arizona Gilbert Arizona Phoenix Arizona Mesa Arizona Spokane Washington Columbia River Washington Seattle Washington Portland Oregon Medford Oregon Reno Nevada Las Vegas Nevada Fresno California Sacramento California Oakland Californai Redlands Californai Los Angeles California Newport Beach Californai San Diego California St. George Utah Monticello Utah Vernal Utah Logan Utah Manti Utah Provo Utah Mount Timpanogos Utah Draper Utah Salt Lake Bountiful Utah Ogden Utah Jordan River Utah Oquirrh Mountain Utah

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kodak's research trip tips

Kodak's newsletter at summer's dawn gave vacation photo tips that are just as applicable to genealogy research trips.

  • Use photos to tell the story of your trip, from the time of your departure to your return.
  • Capture the details. Take pictures of signs, ticket stubs, menus, local maps and more.
  • Take individual pictures of each member of your travel party with their favorite landmarks, rides, eatery or animal.
  • Carry a small notebook to jot down quick details to use later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ancestry Insider is a Best 2008 Website

101 Best Web Sites 2008, Family Tree Magazine The Ancestry Insider is one of the 101 best genealogy websites this year, according to Family Tree Magazine. I get to place the trophy shown to the right on my electronic mantle.

The announcement reads, in part,

Congratulations! Family Tree Magazine has named Ancestry Insider to its annual 101 Best Web Sites for genealogy list for 2008. A synopsis of each winning site appears in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine. ... The full list, including your site, is posted on our web site. ...Thank you, for providing such a useful resource for the readers of Family Tree Magazine. Again, congratulations on your web site’s success.

Thank you, Family Tree Magazine. I am truly honored. All the people at Family Tree Magazine have always been so kind to me. Diane Haddad once said, "How did anyone find out stuff before the Ancestry Insider?" Wow! That comment constantly and simultaneously buoys and haunts me.

I want to thank everybody I ever met in my entire life. There's a great deal to say, but I'm not going to say it all tonight. I haven't had an orthodox career and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. I feel it and I can't deny the fact that you like me, you really like me! I was going to thank all the little people, but then I remembered I am the little people. I'd like to thank __________, even though he's suing us. Most of all, I want to thank my father up there, the man who, when I said I wanted to be a blogger said, "Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like genealogy."

In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation's generosities this particular choice may perhaps be found by future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it, the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth of the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow.

Last, but not least, I'd like to thank (in alphabetical order) Jane Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Maureen Stapleton, Paul Williams, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and Sally Fields for writing my acceptance speech. Can you guess which statement each of them made? Do you remember watching live when any of them made their comment? If you do, leave me a comment.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Celebrate Triple-8 Day at's Chinese Site

The 2008 Beijing Olympic logo 08/08/08

This is an auspicious day in Chinese culture. No, not because it is the start of the Beijing Olympics. It's quite the other way around. The olympics were scheduled to start on 08/08/08 because "the number eight has long been considered fortuitous in China," according to an Associated Press story Tuesday.

In China, the pronunciation of the word eight sounds like the phrase for great fortune, said Han-Chia Li, an instructor of Chinese at the University of Mississippi. A reported record 9,000 Chinese couples plan to tie the knot that day.

This is analogous to the 07/07/07 date last year, when a record number of American couples tried to get lucky.

But unless your schedule is chock full of weddings, check out's latest international website. No, it's not (There's a cyber squatter sitting on that domain name.) For some reason, chose to use a Chinese word to name the website. Go figure...

Graphic logo from jiapu.comThe actual website is Jiāpu doesn't mean Ancestry, but is actually the Chinese word for Genealogy, although Family History is an acceptable translation as well. In fact, FamilySearch uses jiāpu as the translation for the Family History in Family History Center (as this example shows). Literally, jiā pu means family registry, list or table. It can also be translated as family musical score, which suggests my identification of genealogists with anciest shaman (see Genealogists are the new shaman).

When you check out, if you don't have the proper fonts on your computer you'll see a bunch of rectangles in place of the Chinese characters that should be displayed. Oh, well. The proper characters don't mean much more to me than the rectangles. Here's a screen shot, in case the characters don't display correctly on your computer:

Image of's Chinese website

Even if you can't read it, click around. Check out your Wang or Chen ancestors. I understand that just poking around the site will bring good luck on triple-8 day! :-)

The entire text of the announcement can be read on The Generations Network website.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'm Presenting at the 2008 UGA Fall Conference

UGA Logo Guess what?! I'm presenting two classes at the 2008 Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) Fall Conference on Saturday, September 13th at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. At 9:00AM I am presenting, "The New FamilySearch Rollout." At 11:30AM (yuck! during lunch!) I'm presenting, "Serendipity in Genealogy." Would it be OK if I share your story of help from the other side? Send it to me in an E-mail. Or come and share it in person. Either way, drop me a note at

Both presentations are tentatively scheduled for the auditorium, but if five or less sign up for the 11:30AM class, I'll ask UGA to move it to the FHL snack room on level 1. :-) I thought I had the coveted 10:15AM time slot, but Kory Meyerink got it, pushing me into the lunch hour! It must be nice being famous. ;-) Now I'm up against Michael John Neill, Mary Hill and other greats! Say...... You don't know what I look like...... Maybe I could get a celebrity impersonator to fill in and I'll attend one of those other great classes. =-) Who would you like me to look like? (Please pick someone cheap, like Danny from the Partridge Family.)

The conference goes from 9AM on Friday, 12-September-2008 to 5:30PM on Saturday. The Friday morning keynote speaker is Don Anderson, director of the FamilySearch Worldwide Support Services Division. After the retirement of Raymond Wright, Anderson was also appointed as director for the Family History Library.

BTW, this is a great year to come to the UGA Fall Conference. Because it is being held inside the Family History Library, all registration fees are waived this year. Of course, the price of gas will eat up those savings and more. But still... Tell your spouse you're going to a conference and then just spend all your time at the FHL. Come on; you know you want to.

On the UGA website you can find a registration form and a detailed class schedule. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FamilySearch Membership Has Its Privileges

In a statement issued by FamilySearch on 28-July-2008 (Indexed Records to Remain Free on, FamilySearch outlined the general formula it is using to set up relationships with affiliates for joint indexing and imaging projects. And FamilySearch also announced a new concept that it called "FamilySearch Membership."

FamilySearch Members

FamilySearch, according to the statement, is developing a system to allow special privileges to active participants in its indexing program.

Free access to some images may be available only to FamilySearch members [which includes] volunteers and indexers who meet basic contribution requirements each quarter, patrons at Family History Centers, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who's [sic] contributions support FamilySearch's operations. FamilySearch members will ... enjoy convenient access in their homes or wherever they have Internet access.

According to the statement, this feature will not be available until sometime in 2009.

Genesis Project Publishing Model

The statement also outlines the default publishing model FamilySearch is using for Genesis Project affiliates. The model looks quite similar to the original published more than a year ago. You'll recall the announcement in May-2007 of the Genesis Project and the associated Request For Information (RFI). The RFI requested feedback for a publishing model, which back then looked like this:

  • An Archive (such as NARA) makes records available to FamilySearch.
  • FamilySearch scans records and provides archive images to the Archive for free.
  • FamilySearch provides the images to a Publisher (such as Ancestry).
  • The Publisher transcribes all genealogically relevant information from the records.
  • Or FamilySearch indexes the records in exchange for some other value supplied by the Publisher.
  • The Publisher hosts the resulting indexes and images.
  • The Publisher may charge for access to the indexes and images.
  • The Publisher makes the indexes and images available for free at the Archive.
  • The Publisher provides a copy of the index to FamilySearch.
  • FamilySearch may host images and indexes for free use by FamilySearch Members

Back at that time the proposed definition for a FamilySearch Member was:

  • Members of the Church
  • Students and faculty of BYU and other Church owned schools
  • Employees of the Church and Church entities
  • Staff of the FHL and FHCs
  • Volunteers who index at least 500 names or 10 hours per month
  • Volunteers who index one record become Members long enough to see one record
  • Financial contributors of more than $250 annually to FamilySearch

The model is an attempt to structure an arrangement that is financially viable to publishers while FamilySearch gets as much information as possible. It seems backwards on its face. Producing images is inexpensive, but FamilySearch produces the images for the publisher to use to make money. Then the publisher produces indexes, which is expensive, for FamilySearch to give away for free.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Making Sense via Motives

Last time I pointed out that's motive is financial: shareholder value, revenues and profits. Owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch's motive is religious: eternal families and temple ordinances. Today let's look at the terms of the deal in terms of the motives.

If you need to refer back to the text of the announcement, it can be found on and the clarification can be found here at the Ancestry Insider. As usual, this is my opinion, not confidential information from either organization.

Images's old images will not be as good as FamilySearch's new scans. created its images back when modem's were much more prevalent than high-speed connections, so it scanned the images at lower resolutions to keep download times smaller. Plus, FamilySearch is scanning first-generation ("master") microfilms while Ancestry used second-generation (copies of master) films. (See "Census Image Quality.") Presumably, if FamilySearch is scanning first-generation microfilms, then NARA must be a partner also, providing access to the master microfilms. It appears that will bear the cost of hosting the images and paying for the bandwidth to serve the images.

Ancestry gets to offer the better images via subscription. The Church gets more temple ordinances by offering the images for free at family history centers, which are frequented by Church members and genealogically-active members of the public. NARA gets the better images for free public use at their facilities. and FamilySearch (and NARA) all get what they need for their objectives.


While in these deals we speak of indexes, which are document finding aids, it may be more descriptive to call them transcriptions and abstracts, the information extracted from a document. (See Indexes are not transcripts for the difference between transcriptions and abstracts.) And instead of keying we should be talking about indexing. But I digress...

The work of both organizations will be used to form enhanced indexes that will be given back to both organizations. For census years that FamilySearch has already indexed, the two organizations' indexes will be combined. It was not clear from the announcement which organization would bear the cost of this surprisingly expensive operation.'s indexes have good and bad points. The law of diminishing returns would predict that as the accuracy of a census abstractions approach 100%, it becomes more and more expensive to achieve greater accuracy. So the bad point of's census indexes is the limit that profitability places on accuracy. The good point is that Ancestry has allowed customer corrections for quite some time. I don't care whether your indexer is a Chinese professional or a random American volunteer, a user with intimate knowledge of a family's names is going to produce the most accurate names. I understand that Ancestry is supplying these user corrections as part of the deal.

For census years that FamilySearch has not yet indexed, FamilySearch can use the Ancestry indexes as the A keying and its own volunteers for the B keying. This cuts its A/B keying effort in half, allowing it to focus its volunteers elsewhere. FamilySearch could also use statistics from its A/B arbitration system to compare the quality of Ancestry's indexes to its own. If the quality is high enough and FamilySearch is not keying additional fields, they could skip the B keying altogether.

Again, Ancestry gets money from the indexes by charging for subscriptions (after offering them free for an unspecified length of time). The Church gets more temple ordinances because the indexes are available for free on, for free in NARA reading rooms and for free for a limited time on

If the Church could offer the images for free at home to Church members and the genealogically-active members of the public, it would. And it will. Next time I'll look at a new concept announced in the 28-July clarification: the notion of a FamilySearch Member. In the mean time, if you want to help produce a free index of the 1920 U.S. Census, visit