Friday, May 29, 2009 Passes 8 Billion Records

Scientists and computer users use metric prefixes in which k means a thousand and M means a million. A few isolated groups, such as the energy industry, used the Roman numeral M for one thousand long before the metric system came along. For a million, they use MM, a thousand thousands (although MM actually means two thousand). It’s very confusing.

Especially when both systems are intermixed, as they are in’s May Update.

But I digress… hit a big milestone this month. They surpassed 8 billion records. Notice they didn’t use the sometimes-inflated measure of name counts. Eight billion records is pretty darn impressive. Here’s a break down by category. The M means millions, the B means billions.




Birth, Marriage & Death

38.9 M

1,100 M

Census & Voter Lists

27.7 M

900 M


3.4 M

12 M

Directories & Member Lists

7.6 M

2,100 M

Family Trees

0 M

1,400 M

Immigration & Emigration

31.6 M

180 M


80.6 M

125 M

Newspapers & Periodicals

42.5 M

2,400 M

Pictures, Maps & References

2.1 M

32 M

Stories, Memories & Histories

6.1 M

105 M


240 M

8.3 B


Over the past three years, the number of records in the census & voter list category has grown from under 750 million to over 900 million. points out that they have also been upgrading their census collections. I have to point out that much of that has occurred in cooperation with FamilySearch.

Record growth in census and voter lists

Over the same time frame, has increased their vital record collection by an impressive 350 million records. Neither nor FamilySearch have mentioned any deals on vital records, but I notice quite a few new vital record collections are from FamilySearch. Look for sources mentioning “Intellectual Reserve,” the intellectual property arm of FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See, for example, “Norway Births and Christenings, 1600s-1800s”, Marriages, Netherlands Births and Marriages, Denmark Births and Marriages, …

But I digress…

Record growth in vital records

The growth of immigration records from a little over 110 million records to 180 million records has been stretched over all three years.

Record growth in immigration records

While no graph was supplied, Eric Shoup reports that during the same period users have contributed “10MM trees online and 1 billion people.”

Shouldn’t that be 1MMM people?

Regardless, congratulations to!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boise and Mount Timpanogos Districts

According to the New FamilySearch (NFS) Utah and Idaho Release website, Family History Consultants for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints in two additional districts have received word that NFS is soon coming to members of the Church in their districts:

  • Boise Idaho
  • Mount Timpanogos (American Fork) Utah

Consultants in these two districts join those in St. George Utah and five stakes in Logan Utah in the advance preparation for the rollout of NFS.

Ever fiddling with the rollout mechanics, text for the Mount Timpanogos invitation letter looked like this:

22 May 2009

To: Family History Consultants in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple District

During the past two years, the Church has been introducing a new process for preparing ancestral names for the temple, which includes the Web site. After making some changes to the system to support the large number of expected new users, we have begun introducing the new process in Utah and Idaho.

Please accept a special invitation to begin using the Web site before it becomes available to the members in your ward and stake. As a family history consultant, you are a member’s primary source of individual family history instruction and help. In this role, you will be a key contact for members who may have questions about this new process to prepare ancestral names for temple ordinances. We will notify priesthood leaders in your stake at a later date with specific information about the release of to the members.

We have prepared some new online training courses for you that are designed to help you prepare to help the members of your ward and stake. The information for accessing these courses may be found on the Utah and Idaho release section of This release section will be a valuable resource to you throughout your preparations to help members. You will be able to see up-to-the-minute information on preparation resources, helpful tips for using the, and regular updates in the progress of the release to stakes in Utah and Idaho.

We encourage you to visit, and click on the Click Here to go to the Utah and Idaho Instructions button. Then follow the simple instructions to prepare for the release of the new process in your stake. Go back often for updates.

Please encourage any consultants in your ward and stake who have not already done so to go to, click on the Click Here to Register button, and complete the registration form as instructed so that they too may have early access to and begin preparing to help the members in their ward.

If you have questions or problems with this process, please contact FamilySearch.


Toll-free: 1-866-406-1830

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Acronym glossary?

I recently received this request:

Dear Mr. Insider:  I have a modest suggestion.  Although I'm pretty familiar with genealogy terminology, I was stumped for a while about the meaning of FOR in your "Rollout" legend.  Can I suggest that you provide an explanation of acronyms or other terminology utilized in the newsletter that might not be readily understandable to new subscribers?

Thanks for providing a valuable and interesting service to us all.

Jay Deverich
Irvine, CA

Dear Jay,

Thanks for the feedback. I recognize that if I’m not careful, my articles can be problematic for readers for several reasons:

My goal is to make all my articles accessible to all my readers. The editorial approach I have chosen to accomplish this goal is to

  • Never use an acronym in an article without spelling it out the first time it is used in the article. You may tire at the constant repetition, but most of you understand that new readers and new genealogists are joining us all the time. The exception will be in headlines and graphics, where the acronym may be used first and subsequently defined in the text.
  • Provide hyperlinks for concepts that may not be common knowledge, for the reasons listed above. For technical subjects, more likely than not the links will go to Wikipedia. Some of you have expressed concerns about my use of Wikipedia. For technical topics, you have the assurance that I have read the article and consider it a valid explanation. Where I haven’t liked the Wikipedia article, I have found and linked to a better explanation. The only change that I maybe should make is to link to the version of the Wikipedia article that I reviewed. Then if subsequent edits turn the article into something unacceptable to me, my links would still take you to the version I reviewed.
  • Provide supplemental explanations. If you read me long enough, you’ll experience a time where all or part of an article was introductory-level material you already knew. Again, new readers are joining all the time, necessitating a certain amount of review all the time. Explanations may involve basic information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such information is intended to make member-focused articles accessible to you, my many friends who are not members of my Church.

All that is good and proper in the abstract. The reality is that most of the time articles take far too long to compose. (I sometimes take an hour a paragraph! Can you believe that?) Consequently, I often write in a hurry and neglect to follow my own rules.

Jay, I regularly receive feedback like yours that I’ve missed an acronym, or I’m talking about something without giving the proper background.

I appreciate that feedback very much. Whenever I have time, I go back and fix the archived articles. Please keep those corrections coming.


-- The Ancestry Insider

Monday, May 25, 2009

Using Product Support to learn about the Family Tree Project

Screen images illustrating use of Product Support Help

Follow the steps below, as illustrated above, to use FamilySearch Product Support Help to learn more about the Family Tree Project. Start at .

  1. Move the mouse pointer to the word “Help” on the FamilySearch web page. (This is called hovering.) Notice a drop-down menu appears with two items: Help and Product Support.
  2. Click on Product Support to go to the Product Support page.
  3. Click in the box in the middle of the page. Then type “Family Tree Project”. Of course, if you were interested in a different topic, one could type a different subject or question.
  4. Click the Ask button under the box.
  5. Look at the Search Results. Underneath each result is a “Published” date (formatted ambiguously, unfortunately). Look for the set of articles published “5/22/09” or scan through the results for the article titled, “Introduction to the Family Tree Project.”

While the dates are currently “Published 5/22/09”, that could change; when I started this article the articles were “Published 5/12/09”. But if you find the Introduction article, you can use the links in the articles to move about the set.

In an accompanying article, we’ll explore what new discoveries I found while learning about the Family Tree Project.

Family Tree Project to eliminate temple duplication

Detail from FamilySearch FamilyTree project For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without access to New FamilySearch (NFS), read-only access to the Family Tree project of FamilySearch Labs will eliminate duplication of temple ordinances of Church members’ ancestors. This according to recent public postings by FamilySearch in the Product Support pages of . One such post states,

The Family Tree project is replacing the International Genealogical Index (IGI) as a resource to verify that temple ordinances are complete. … At first, as the Family Tree project is made available to Church members along the Wasatch Front, those members will have read-only access…. Members will not be able to change data or clear names for submission to the temple using the Family Tree project.

(Members of the Church believe that families can be “sealed” together for eternity and actively research their genealogies for submission to the faith’s temples for posthumous execution of these ordinances. The Church teaches that after death spirits of the deceased can choose to accept or reject the ordinances performed on their behalf.)

While most areas of the Church are using NFS and Family Tree to submit ordinance requests, members in Idaho and Utah not on NFS continue to use an old system that relies on consulting the IGI to prevent re-submission of completed ordinances. Unfortunately, the IGI does not include ordinances submitted through NFS. (See “New FamilySearch and IGI are not talking.”) Since NFS and Family Tree include information from both the old and new systems, Family Tree can be checked to prevent duplicate ordinance requests.

Giving members in Idaho and Utah read-only access to NFS data via Family Tree is a clever way, it seems to me, of preventing duplication if the NFS rollout isn’t completed quickly. Somebody’s got their thinking cap on and deserves congratulations.

Re-tasking Family Tree as a tool to prevent ordinance duplication is a change from Family Tree’s original mission.

The Family Tree project is redesigning the look of the new FamilySearch Web site. You are invited to preview and give feedback on this new look while it is still being developed. (Source) When the Family Tree project is made available for full use to all Church members, it will become part of the new FamilySearch, and members will have full use of all features. (Source)

No indication was given for when read-only access to Family Tree will start. In an accompanying article, I show how to find the set of articles containing the posts quoted. That article shows indications that the set of articles was posted and updated within the month.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mid-May releases of NFS and Family Tree

Well, the middle of the quarter has arrived, so it is time for new releases to New FamilySearch (NFS) and Family Tree. And unlike many past quarters, the releases have come at or near the mid-quarter date, 15 May 2009.

What's New in New FamilySearch

New FamilySearch

As always, the sign-in page contains a link to view a list of the updates in New FamilySearch. The “What’s New” document itemizes these changes:

GreenBulletYou’ll recall that IOUSes—individuals of unusual sizehalted the rollout of NFS in February 2008. When the rollout resumed in April 2008, the number of records that could be combined was limited to prevent the creation of IOUSes. In this release, the number of records that can be combined together has been increased from 85 to 150.

Does this mean the IOUS problem has been fixed? I don’t think so. While nearly doubling the number of duplicates allowed, in my opinion this isn’t a fix. I need to be careful here, lest I digress too far. I intend to do an entire article some time showing that the NFS architecture is the right architecture, but should never have been the dumping ground for millions of secondary source records.

See… Already I’m digressing.

No, I’m guessing this change is an intermediate milestone that shows progress is being made towards a complete solution, and that FamilySearch has increasing confidence that the New FamilySearch website can handle more than it currently handles.

GreenBulletRootsMagic 4 has been certified to reserve temple ordinances and print Family Ordinance Requests. Interested parties are directed to and liates/index.html .

GreenBulletThe User’s Guide has been updated to clarify the Helper feature of NFS, as I previously reported in “NFS’s Helper Feature.” If you use the Helper feature to help someone not registered as an NFS user, then any changes made will identify the full name of the person helped and your contact name. Moral: unless you’re prepared to be contacted about the changes you make, don’t help someone not registered in NFS.

GreenBulletChanges have been made to the User’s Guide explaining what, if any, information from LDS Church membership records can be viewed in NFS:

  • You can view the names and genders of your current spouse, parents, other direct ancestors, and children. I guess it goes without saying that you can see your own name and gender.
  • For children younger than 18 years of age, you can also see birth dates. Again, I guess it goes without saying that you can see your own birth date.
  • For individuals known to be deceased, you can view name, gender, birth date, and death date. Marriage information can be viewed when both parties are deceased.

GreenBulletThe User’s Guide has been changed, instructing users not to add living relatives who are members of the Church except in minimal situations necessary to link yourself to deceased individuals. Use PAF or a similar program to track information about living relatives.

GreenBulletInformation about Family Tree has been added to Chapter 1 of the User’s Guide. Several additional changes concerned temple submissions.

What's New in the Family Tree

Family Tree

There’s two new links on the Family Tree home page:

  • Register for the new FamilySearch…
  • News and Updates…

I’m not certain what the purpose is for the ellipses (three periods) on the ends of the links. In menu systems, an ellipsis alerts you that you’re going to get an intermediate window prior to execution of the menu item.

Indeed, I do get an interstitial pop-up when I click either of these links. It’s one of those Windows Vista popups of which Apple Computer makes so much fun. I’ve updated Adobe software since the last time I ran Family Tree and I think it is the new Adobe software, not the new Family Tree, that is causing this problem:

Windows Vista complains about Adobe DLM

Unfortunately, this popup seems to pull the Family Tree window back to the top, so if you click on the Register link, the registration window is left underneath. It took me several clicks on Register before I noticed the small registration window underneath the Family Tree window.

The News and Updates link opens up (after the Vista popup) a “What’s New in the Family Tree” document. According to this document, there are but two new features in the May 2009 release of Family Tree. Can you guess what they are?

I’ll give you a hint.

I just covered them.

Next week we’ll scour product help for any additional public information about these latest releases of New FamilySearch and Family Tree. Stay tuned…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NFS Rollout News for 21 May 2009

New FamilySearch Rollout Map for 21 May 2009

Gosh, I’ve let almost a month go by since the last New FamilySearch (NFS) update. Three temples have gone live during this month!

  • Rexburg Idaho
  • Manti Utah
  • Vernal Utah

Two temple districts—or at least parts of districts—have received unique notices starting their preparation stage:

  • Logan Utah
  • St. George Utah

I received word about two more temples getting support to print cards from the Family Ordinance Requests (FORs) produced by NFS (and RootsMagic):

  • Boise Idaho can print cards from FORs.
  • Rumor has it that after the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple maintenance closure, it will have FOR support when it reopens Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

What about Draper Utah? Anybody out there in the Draper district? Are they the sole district that can’t print cards from FORs? Except the Orient of course…

Remember, no matter how long between my NFS Rollout News articles, you can always see up to the minute coverage in the tables at “Temple Districts Using New FamilySearch.”

Have you received notice in your stake? Want to share your joy? Please only send non-confidential information. (No support missionaries, please!) Let us all know at 

I’ll talk about the unique spins being used in the roll-outs to Logan and St. George in separate articles. Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820, The Review

An aborted earlier attempt to review this database turned into an editorial on titles. This was followed by an introduction to this database and now, today’s results of the review.’s efforts to rehabilitate their presentation of this database were a waste if they didn’t make it at least as easy to use as the copy of the database.

To compare the capabilities of the website,'s old database, and the new database, I had to track down some results from the old implementation.

  • Here are the search results for keyword “Falcon” from the old database.
  • Here are the search results for keyword “Falcon” from the new database.
  • Here are the search results for masters’ name “Falcon” from the website.

To get a true picture of what the results should be, I also downloaded the original Access database from the website and searched every field for “Falcon.” You can see the results here in spreadsheet format, although they don’t make much sense without downloading the key.

Here are the results of my review. To shorten references to the implementations, I’ve abbreviated as in my review.

Feature website Old New
Were all the 8 records with "Falcon" in them found in the search results? No. 7 of 8. Yes.
8 of 8.
No. 7 of 8.

The and the New databases didn’t find the case where “Falcon” appeared in the notes. The Old technique of combining all the fields into one text blob, gave it the edge in this test.

Feature website Old New
Is the original record type documented? No No No

The Document Type is one of the more important fields required to properly understand each record. I find it odd that all three implementations are missing it, especially when all 100,666 records of the original database have it. This is a big disappointment for me in the New But as it turns out, it’s not a reason to go back to the website.

Feature website Old New
All data fields from the original database have been included? No
No No

As previously mentioned, all three implementations are missing the Document type. The website is also missing Name type, Birthplace (verbatim spelling), and Newly arrived (Brut).’s old implementation lacks the Transcriber. New lacks the Transcriber field and the Name type field, which can be an important clue regarding what part of Africa the person came from.

Feature website Old New
All symbolic values in the original database have been replaced with meaningful text? Yes No Yes

Old didn’t always use meaningful text for field names. New fixes this. One nitpick is the value "housed in parish courthouses" for Document Depository. I’m assuming each parish has but one parish courthouse, in which case this should say, “Parish courthouse.”

A second nitpick would be the estate slave count, which is only included on one of the slaves in the count. This seems to be part of the original database, however. I suppose it allows the Estate slave counts to be correctly summed across all records. For all other slaves, the count can be derived from the Estate ID code (which New calls Estate Number).

Feature website Old New
The depository of the original record is given?
No No Yes
Fields are named well? Mostly Mostly Mostly

My biggest complaint with the New field names concerns monetary values. Each value currently displays three fields. Sell price is described with Selling Currency, Selling Value, and Selling Value US$, like so:

  • Selling currency: Piastre = 1 P
  • Selling Value: 365
  • Selling Value US$: 365

This could be presented more clearly as

  • Sell price: 365 piastre ($365 US$)

Inventory value is worse, which appears like so:

  • Selling currency: Piastre = 1 P
  • Inventory Value: 500
  • Inventory Common Price: 500

No indication is given that “Common Price” means the same as “Value” albeit in US$. This would benefit from a treatment matching sell price:

  • Inventory Value: 500 piastre ($500 US$)

I think’s choice of “Estate Number” for the Estate Identifier is a mistake. For example,
"03-F-092-047-1745" looks more like an ID than a number.

Feature website Old New
When field names cannot be self-explanatory, their meanings are more fully explained elsewhere? No No No

These fields ought to be explained in the database description:

  • Date format. Are dates mm/dd/yyyy? Why isn’t this converted to non-ambiguous format?
  • The database description ought to explain the three periods: French (1719-1769), Spanish (1770-1803), and Early American (1804-1820).
  • Do Location and Parish mean the same thing? Is Location the location of the document, the event, or the plantation?
  • Age: needs to explain that if the document specified a range of years, the year listed is the mean age:  e.g., for a slave of 30 to 35 years, 32.5 was entered.  For infants, months were round off to nearest tenths of a year. BTW, it appears the estimated birth year is incorrect when a decimal point is present in the age.
  • Number of children of this slave:  It needs to be explained that this field is coded only for the mother when one is present, otherwise it is coded for the father.
  • Estate number: needs to describe how to see all the slaves listed in an estate using the estate identifier. The format is LL-P-EEE-SSS-YYYY, where LL is the location code, P is the period (French, Spanish, Early American), EEE is a unique estate number for the location and period, SSS is the number of slaves, and YYYY is the year. For example, "03-F-092-047-1745" means location number 03 during the French period. The 092 is a unique identifier among the "03-F" estates. The estate contained 47 slaves and was inventoried in 1745.
  • A Birthplace of "brut"or "bozal," means the person is newly arrived from Africa.
  • Where slave came from: Specified for Africans who were born in one place and then spent time in various Caribbean countries before being brought to Louisiana.
Feature website Old New
Fields are displayed in logical groupings? Mostly yes No Mostly yes

The website places the date of sale in the document group, which I think is wrong. I also don’t like how they order of the groups. New groupings look really good. However, Sold as an individual should be in the commerce group.

Feature website Old New
Birth year is estimated from age? No No Yes

This is an extremely helpful improvement. Major kudos to

Feature website Old New
Individuals within groups of slaves are differentiated so no two look the same? No No No

While the “Falcon” example doesn’t test this capability, states that there are duplications, which would only be the case if individuals within some groups of slaves are not differentiated. This may be a nitpick. It probably doesn’t serve any genealogical purpose. But when I was first playing with the database, at times it seemed like Old had lots of problems. In reality, I just didn’t understand what was going on.

Feature website Old New
Lists of search results present the most helpful fields? Yes No Yes

Old didn’t support a List or summary view at all, but always showed all fields. New does have a nice List view, but on my computer in the FireFox browser, the final column is clipped.

Feature website Old New
The search form explicitly presents important fields? Yes No Yes
The search form contains a catch-all field that searches any fields not included in the search form? No Yes Yes?

While I think the keyword field searches the fields not included in the search form, the popup help for that field re-lists the other fields. It is supposed to list the fields that are searched that aren't present in the search form.

Feature website Old New
Search form lists all gender choices? Yes No No

New needs to have Unknown in addition to Male and Female.

Feature website Old New
Name search includes slave’s name and master’s name? No Yes Yes
Search form lists choices for Birth Location and Migration Departure Location (Origin), Lived In (Plantation Location), and Race (Racial Designation)? Yes No No

It is a real shortcoming that the search form doesn’t have drop-down lists for fields with limited values. The number of choices is relatively small, but esoteric. Without a list, it is hardly possible to utilize these field.

Possible values for Name Origin are “African,” “European,” “Could be African or European,” and “No name supplied or name is illegible.”

Possible values for Skills are beyond the scope of this article. One example is “majordomo.”

Possible values for Ship are beyond the scope of my research for this article.

Possible values for Birth Location and Migration Departure Location (Origin), Lived In (Plantation Location), and Race (Racial Designation) are listed on the search page.

Passing Grade?

The new implementation of the “Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820” is greatly improved. Kudos to for spending the time to fix-up this database.

However, in many cases the lack of drop-down lists on search fields requires you to go to the website to gather enough information to use the database. Many of you are going to stay there to perform your searches. If you do, you’ll be missing several advantages the New database enjoys:

  • Better presentation of search results
  • Estimated birth year
  • More fields on the search form
  • Keyword search

In the end, the advantages and disadvantages of New compared to may be a wash.

Feature website Old New
The grade I would give the database?   B   D   B

Monday, May 18, 2009

Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820, An Introduction

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall compiled the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy databases
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall compiled the
Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy databases
Image Credit:

Years ago I discovered a small database on and immediately fell in love with it. At the time, it was called "Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1718-1820 (Slave)." I made an earlier attempt to review this database, only to be side-tracked and put off by the practice of renaming databases. Since then, has fixed the source citation problem that I identified. (Thank you,!) Since then, they have also renamed a companion database of freed slaves. (No thank you,

In any event, I'm taking another stab at reviewing’s copy of the “Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820” database, under their title, “Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820.”

What is this database?

The ibibilio website says of this database,

In 1984, a professor at Rutgers University stumbled upon a trove of historic data in a courthouse in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Over the next 15 years, Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, a noted New Orleans writer and historian, painstakingly uncovered the background of 100,000 slaves who were brought to Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries making fortunes for their owners.

Poring through documents from all over Louisiana, as well as archives in France, Spain and Texas, Dr. Hall designed and created a database into which she recorded and calculated the information she obtained from these documents about African slave names, genders, ages, occupations, illnesses, family relationships, ethnicity, places of origin, prices paid by slave owners, and slaves' testimony and emancipations.

The data has amazed genealogists and historians of slavery with the breadth of its information. Because the French and Spanish proprietors of Louisiana kept far more detailed records than their British counterparts at slave ports on the Atlantic coast, the records show valuable historical data. For historians who thought such information was lost or could never be collected and analyzed, the database is a once-unimaginable prize.

Dr. Hall's work in creating the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy is far reaching. There are many who have a stake in being able to freely access this data, from historians, genealogists, anthropologists, geneticists and linguists , to Americans seeking keys to their past. Dr. Hall shares with others an interest in seeing that her research and databases reach the broadest possible audience. Together, Dr. Hall, the Center for the Public Domain, and bring you the Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy 1699 - 1820 Database, a user-friendly, searchable, online database that is freely accessible to the public.

Some History

I am honored that Dr. Hall, herself, responded to my last article with some insights about this database.

The original databases were published on CD by LSU Press. Then a front page story appeared about my slave database on the front page of the Sunday New York Times on July 30, 2000. I had to go into hiding from the media. A lot of people bought the CD but almost no one could figure out how to use it.

So when (which is maintained by the University of North Carolina) asked my permission to put my databases on their web site, I agreed provided they created a search engine. They handed it over to a graduate student who evidently thought a female septuagenarian (me) had nothing to contribute. So he created a search engine only for the slave database, not the free database and left out some important fields and created that confusing "General Search" button. But I managed to stop him from removing the "race" field. He insisted that I remove the "race" field because there was no such thing as race. So I changed the title of the field to "racial designation."

Then asked my permission to incorporate both databases into their search engine. I agreed provided they did not charge the public for using it. Their change of name might involve other slave databases they added to mine and broadened the name, but it seems to be restricted to the same place and dates as mine.

I hope others pick up the expansion of slave databases over time and place. There are several projects out there but they can't speak to each other. No one has ever funded me to do it. I was a finalist with the ACLS this year but I didn't get it. NEH didn't even inform me I didn't get their grant, but they announced who got it and I was not included. The technology does not have to be very fast, complicated and expensive, but everybody is in the business of trying to make as much money as possible.

For more than you want to know about me but in a relatively small package, check out my Wikipedia page.

Much thanks.
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall

Thank you, Dr. Hall. I checked and unfortunately, the name change did not correspond with the addition of records.

Formerly Unusable on

I say I immediately fell in love with this database upon discovering it, but you must understand that several hours elapsed between finding it and discovering it. When I first found it, it was locked tight as a bank safe. No method was provided for browsing the database. And try as I would, I could not find a way to perform a search that would return a single result. Only a chance discovery of the ibibilio website disclosed the combination.

While about 85% of the 100,666 records contain the slave’s name, one must utilize the rich set of ancillary information to have the best possible chance of uniquely identifying ancestors.

When I first discovered the database on, I found each record in the database had been converted into a blob of text. Then the blobs had been shoved together to form a database. It was in bad shape:

  • The conversion had left random words in bold,
  • and bits and pieces of visible, broken HTML code.
  • Many essential fields were dropped.
  • Some field labels were missing.
  • Others were indiscernible.
  • The search form only prompted for name and keyword searches, giving no clue as to what should be used in a search.
  • The description of the database did not give sufficient help to unlock this small treasure.

To get a flavor of the poor shape of the database, look at an old search result. Or check out the companion database, “Louisiana Freed Slave Records, 1719-1820” (renamed from “Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820 [Free]”), which still suffers from most of these problems.

Old is Now New

I was excited in February when I noticed that had reworked this jewel. Documenting the existence of a mere 100,666 slaves, it hardly warrants attention from a company sporting 8 billion names. Assigning resources that could more profitably be assigned elsewhere, I am gratified that spent the time and money to fix this database up. Cynics may discount their action, but I was in possession of enough information during my employ at to know that they had no good reason to fix this database other than to do right by their customers, the genealogical community, Dr. Hall, and mostly the 100,666 souls identified therein.

I'm anxious to see if they've unlocked the database's full potential. If they have, then there is reason to access it on, where it can be used for free, though registration is required. Otherwise, you might as well use it for free on the ibibilio website.

Next time, the review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FamilySearch Survey Asks, “Print Manual?”

NF SUser Guide survey question Thank you to an alert New FamilySearch (NFS) user who notified me of a survey he received from FamilySearch. The 5 minute survey was titled “New FamilySearch User’s Guide” and seemed to be designed to evaluate the level of need for a printed NFS User’s Guide. Besides checking the respondent’s awareness of the User’s Guide, the survey asked if the user printed the guide, and how often the guide was used. Questions were asked to classify the respondent according to age, NFS use, ancestral generations in the Church, and Church assignment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

David E. Rencher Named FamilySearch CGO

While this is a press release from FamilySearch International, I offer it as another in my series of encyclopedic articles. I’ve added some of the hyperlinks.

David E Rencher, FamilySearch CGO SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch today named David E. Rencher Chief Genealogical Officer (CGO). He will have responsibility to help FamilySearch align strategic business decisions with needs and demands of genealogy-related markets. Rencher is a 28-year veteran of FamilySearch and a popular leader in genealogy and archive circles. He has held leadership positions with several national organizations, is a professional genealogist, and is in great demand as a keynote speaker. In addition to his new role as the CGO, Rencher will continue to direct FamilySearch’s collection development activities.

FamilySearch is a growing, worldwide organization focused on providing quicker and more affordable access to genealogical records. The chief genealogical officer helps ensure various efforts in the genealogy community are connecting with FamilySearch’s efforts and that FamilySearch continues to grow in genealogical understanding and depth as an organization.

"We are pleased to place David’s talents in this key role," said Jay Verkler, chief executive officer of FamilySearch. "David will provide a public face for FamilySearch to communities it serves and be a representative voice for the genealogical market, products, and services,” continued Verkler.

Given his deep experience and strong industry relationships, Rencher will serve as a liaison to key industry communities and associations worldwide. Rencher and his organization will also provide input on third-party affiliation opportunities and related marketing initiatives, and he will help build an open FamilySearch environment.

“I’m hopeful that the new CGO position can provide a genealogical perspective to our products and services and ensure that we adhere to fundamental principles that are genealogically sound. The genealogical community looks to us to provide that kind of leadership, and in turn, this is a significant benefit to FamilySearch patrons because it ensures that what we do contributes to the accuracy of linking families together,” said David Rencher, CGO for FamilySearch.

During his career at FamilySearch, David has been instrumental in the development of key services and databases. He has worked to ensure that patrons of family history centers had more timely delivery of microfilm, and he has extended microfilm circulation to public libraries. He initiated the book scanning program for the Family History Library collection, and he was instrumental in the production of the automated indexes for the Social Security Death records, the 1880 U.S. Census, the 1881 British Census, and the military casualty files for Korea and Vietnam. He spent a number of years aligning the standards FamilySearch uses for names and localities and worked on record-matching techniques for FamilySearch databases.

Rencher is an Accredited GenealogistCM with ICAPGenSM in Ireland research and a Certified GenealogistSM with the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. He holds a BA in Family and Local History from Brigham Young University. He served as president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) from 1997 to 2000 and the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) from 1993 to 1995. He is a Fellow of the UGA and the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London. He is currently serving as the chair of the joint Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society committee for Record Preservation and Access and serves as a director for the National Institute of Genealogical Research Alumni Association (NIGRAA). He will continue to serve as the vice president of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and the director of the Planning and Coordination Division of FamilySearch.

Contact for news media:

Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Ancestry Family History Center Edition

Logo at the top of the Ancestry Family History Center Edition Some Family History Centers (FHCs) don’t know that all FHCs can have free access to the Ancestry Family History Center Edition of Some FamilySearch employees don’t know that their computers at work have free access to the Ancestry Family History Library Edition. In both cases, the URL is

AncestryFHLEdition The Salt Lake Family History Library (FHL) and a select number of large FHCs have access to all Ancestry databases via the Ancestry Family History Library Edition. You can see the list of the select FHCs by reading document 102722 from the Product Support section.

I’m not certain if other FHCs need to do anything special to get access to the Ancestry Family History Center Edition. I searched Product Support and found contradictory information. Some articles said the FHC Services Portal was involved and some said it wasn’t. I’m guessing, but here is what I think might be the case.

I guessing that on computers where LANDesk is running correctly and the FHC Services Portal is functioning, that the Ancestry Family History Center Edition can be used by going directly to I guessing that the old method, an Ancestry Family History Center Edition login account, is only necessary if this method fails.

The process formerly used by FHCs to request an account is now documented as the process to use when having problems accessing the Ancestry Family History Center Edition:

Family history centers that have problems with their Ancestry access, will need to communicate with via an e-mail composed in their center's LDSMail account and send it to or call them at 800-262-3787. Ancestry will need the center's name and unit number and a concise message explaining the problem and what is being requested.

(Source: Document 105333. Also, see Document 101501.)

The databases currently available through the Ancestry Family History Center Edition are:

Database Name Index and Images? May 2007 May 2009
1841 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1841 England Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1841 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1841 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1851 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes
1851 England Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1851 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes
1851 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes*
1861 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes
1861 England Census Index Only Yes Yes
1861 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes
1861 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes
1871 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes
1871 England Census Index Only Yes Yes
1871 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes
1871 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes
1880 United States Federal Census Index and Images Yes Yes*
1881 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes
1881 England Census Index Only Yes Yes
1881 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes
1881 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes
1891 Channel Islands Census Index Only Yes Yes
1891 England Census Index Only Yes Yes
1891 Isle of Man Census Index Only Yes Yes
1891 Wales Census Index Only Yes Yes
1900 United States Federal Census Index and Images Yes Yes*
1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta Index and Images No Yes*
1920 United States Federal Census Index and Images Yes Yes
Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959 Index Only Yes Yes*
Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 Index Only Yes Yes
Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943 Index Only Yes Yes
California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957 Index Only Yes Yes
Detroit Border Crossings and Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1957 Index Only Yes Yes
England & Wales, Birth Index: 1837-1983 Limited Search Yes No
England & Wales, Death Index: 1837-1983 Limited Search Yes No
England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1837-1983 Limited Search Yes No
Florida Passenger Lists, 1898-1951 Index Only Yes Yes
Galveston Passenger Lists, 1896-1948 Index Only Yes Yes
New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945 Index Only Yes Yes
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 Index Only Yes Yes*
Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945 Index Only Yes Yes
Seattle Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1957 Index Only Yes Yes
U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 Index and Images Yes Yes*
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 Index and Images Yes Yes*

* Available, but not listed on the Titles Available page.

Since the last time I wrote about the topic, the England & Wales 1837-1983 birth, marriage, and death indexes have been dropped and “1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta” has been added. Does these changes portend changes in the—FamilySearch relationship? Will we see any changes announced at the National Genealogical Conference this week? (I don’t know, so I can speculate along with the rest of you. If I knew one way or the other, I’d have to keep silent. What about those databases from the FamilySearch vital records CDs that I’ve seen show up on lately? But I digress…)

List of titles includes but 30 of the 43 Interestingly, the list on the “Titles Available at the Family History Center” page only shows 30 of the 41 included databases. To see this page, go to the Ancestry Family History Center Edition home page and click the link in the box titled “What Can I Search?”. The same list is visible outside a center by clicking here. This isn’t the first time the list has had problems. See “Ancestry Titles Available in FHCs” for an article and screen shot I posted in September 2007 when most of the titles were left out.

If you are one of those centers or FamilySearch employees unaware of this resource, check it out at .