Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vault Vednesday: Food, Film, and Family History Centers

2010 NGS Family History ConferenceIn today’s edition of Vault Vednesday I’ll talk about luncheons and dinners at the NGS Family History Conference and the increase of family history centers and film at the Granite Mountain Record Vault (GMRV).

NGS Conference Luncheons/Dinners

To properly appreciate the delicate flavors of a fine, multi-course dinner, one must cleanse the palate between each course. The same is true when tasting dozens of wonderful classes at the multi-day National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference. A wonderful way to cleanse the palate of the mind is attending the luncheons and dinners. (Hey! I love to eat!)

Presentations are generally light, allowing your brain a much needed rest. I’m signed up for several of these.

Date of Session Start Time Session Number Event Presentation Title Presenters
28-Apr 12:15 PM W131 Federation of Genealogical Societies Luncheon Rediscovering America's First Frontier Cherel Henderson, Kent Whitworth
28-Apr 12:15 PM W132 NIGRAA Luncheon Sleep Deprivation and Archival Withdrawal: The Post-NIGR Experience. David McDonald, CG
28-Apr 12:15 PM W133 Palatines to America Luncheon Those Revolting Germans James Jeffrey
28-Apr 7:00 PM W164 International Society of Family History Writers and Editors Banquet Tales from the Editor's Desk Michael J. Leclerc
28-Apr 7:00 PM W165 United Polish Genealogical Societies Banquet Hidden Sources for Finding Family Stories Loretto Dennis Szucs
29-Apr 12:15 PM T231 Board for Certification of Genealogists Luncheon It's All in How You Look at It: An Opportunity or a Chore Barbara Vines Little, CG
29-Apr 12:15 PM T232 Utah Genealogical Association Luncheon Genealogy: It's Not Just for Mormons DearMyrtle
29-Apr 12:15 PM T233 International Society for British Genealogy and Family History Luncheon Ask the British Isles Genealogy Experts Panel
30-Apr 12:00 PM F331 Association of Professional Genealogists Luncheon Growing Up Genealogically Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG
30-Apr 12:15 PM F332 FamilySearch Luncheon FamilySearch’s Latest Research Tools: Genealogists Take Note! Don Anderson
30-Apr 12:15 PM F333 New England Historic Genealogical Society Luncheon Finding Family Treasures at NEHGS Judy Lucey
30-Apr 7:00 PM F362 NGS Banquet Unpuzzling The Castle Class: Exploring the Intrigues and Interconnections of Royalty David McDonald, CG
1-May 12:00 PM S431 NGS GenTech Luncheon The Top 10 Areas Where Technology Can Still Make a Real Difference in Genealogy–Could You Please Hurry? David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA
1-May 12:15 PM S432 Genealogical Speakers Guild Luncheon From Index Cards to Powerpoint and Beyond Maureen A. Taylor
1-May 12:15 PM S433 ICAPGen Luncheon Thinking Creatively About Research Problems Apryl Cox, AG

Prices vary and can be found in the conference registration web pages.

I’d like to say thank you to the authors of the Conference Blog. The blog recently featured you-know-who. Read the blog at


Pre-registration must be postmarked by 12 April 2010. There are just 12 days left.
The conference begins 28 April 2010. There are just 28 days left.

The Vault: Growth of Film, Family History Centers

This chart shows that growth in the FamilySearch (Genealogical Society of Utah) microfilm collection took off once the Granite Mountain Record Vault was completed.

Growth of FamilySearch Microfilm Collection

Year # of Microfilms Notes
1938 12  
~1949 50,000  
1951 ~65,000  
1956 ~130,000  
~1959 200,000-  
1961 ~250,000  
1966 ~500,000  
1971 ?86,000 100 FHCs in U.S., Canada, Mexico, South Pacific. The equivalent to 25 million standard volumes of 300 pages each.
1972 712,945 In 17 countries. 712,945 100-foot rolls of microfilm are the equivalent of over 3,401,301 printed volumes of 300 pages each.
1973 796,804 In 27 countries. 796,804 100-foot rolls of microfilm is equivalent to 3,801,373 printed volumes of 300 pages each.
1974 836,952 In 27 countries. 836,952 one hundred-foot rolls of microfilm are the equivalent of over 3,992,911 printed volumes of 300 pages each.
1975 876,532 In 37 countries. 876,532 100-foot rolls of microfilm are the equivalent of over 4,219,504 printed volumes of 300 pages each.
And 1,000s more films/month. 128,000 books. 400 new books/month.
1976 910,661 In 35 countries using 80 microfilm cameras and five oral interviewers. During 1976 microfilm holdings increased by 4.5 percent equivalent to 4,334,559 volumes of 300 pages each.
1977 949,000 In 36 countries. 949,000 one-hundred-foot rolls of microfilm is equivalent to 4,517,000 volumes of 300 pages each.
1978 983,000 In 43 countries. 983,000 one-hundred-foot rolls of microfilm is equivalent to 4,679,000 volumes of 300 pages each. And 85 cameras adding 4,000 rolls/month
1979 1,024,000 In 39 countries. 1,024,000 one-hundred-foot rolls of microfilm, equivalent to 4,927,000 volumes of 300 pages each.
1983 1,250,000  
1987 1,450,000+ 180,000 books. 8,000,000 family group record forms.
1988 ~1,500,000 More than 1/2 billion images. 200 cameras in 40 countries. In 1985 added 37 million records and in 1988 added 90 million records. 7,000 miles of film duplicated for FHCs annually. And 100+ cameras. 180,000 books books, periodicals, etc. 1,000+ FHCs in North & South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Pacific.
1989 1,600,000

3 exposures per seconds. 200 cameras in 40 countries. 1,400 FHCs. Duplicated 8,400 miles of film for distribution.

1991 1,700,000 Increasing by 40,000 rolls/year
1995 1,800,000  
1996 1,900,000 Adding 5,000 rolls/month
1998 2,000,000+

700,000 microfiches

3,000+ FHCs. 280,000 books. Microfilming in 110 countries. Vault has 2 billion exposures, ~13 billion names. A total of 329,434,125 names have been indexed by 50,000+ volunteers. 8,000 volunteers transcribed 30,000 names in the 1881 British census.

2005 2,300,000+  

Use hyperlinks to see sources.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FHL Classes Available Online

The FamilySearch Family History Library is now making its onsite classes available online, where anyone anywhere can access them anytime. There are currently 23 classes ranging from 6 to 58 minutes, with most lasting about 25 minutes. Class subjects range from European research to United States military records. Popular offerings include beginning research for Ireland and England, and a descendancy research class. On the current you can find the classes by clicking on Free Online Classes.

Don’t be surprised when the format of classes varies. Some use video, some use slides, some are interactive.

Separate Video and Slides

FHL Russian Research class on FamilySearch.orgA Russian research class (above) features audio, video on the top-left, links on the bottom-left, and slides on the right. This format uses Microsoft Silverlight, a browser plugin available for Windows XP (service pack 2), Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10.4.8 or above, and Linux. FamilySearch  uses a program from SonicFoundry to produce these presentations.

Shared Video/Slides

FHL England Research class on FamilySearch.orgAn England research class includes all the same elements as the Russia class, but the elements are not integrated. The small video alternates between presenter and slides. Full size slides and links are available in a separate PDF file.

Slides Only

FHL Catalog class on FamilySearch.orgThe Family History Library Catalog class uses a slide format but still has audio.

Interactive Slides

FHL German Handwritten class on FamilySearch.orgThe German Handwriting class uses slides and audio, but also includes interactive exercises.

The complete text of the announcement is available online.

FamilySearch Call for Presenters

Earlier this month FamilySearch issued an invitation to professional genealogists to donate lectures to the online classes. The FamilySearch Genealogical Community Services team will assist presenters in recording their presentations and publishing them online. Recording sessions will take place during the 2010 NGS conference as well as a few days before and a few days afterwards. Interested presenters need to reserve a recording session before the end of March. Reservations are being made on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sessions will take place at the Family History Library. There will be no audience during the recording. Finished recordings will be made available for free to the public on the new web site (as opposed to the New FamilySearch Tree). Presentations will be recorded and displayed using the SonicFoundry separate video/slide format mentioned above.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Temples and NFS

Notice: This article will be of interest only to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

New FamilySearch helps members perform sacred ordinances for departed love ones

FamilySearch product managers, Ron Tanner and Tim Cross, answered New FamilySearch (NFS) and temple-related questions in their presentations at the South Davis Family History Fair and the St. George Family History Expo, respectively. I’ve also thrown in an Internet post from Ron Tanner.


Q. If you remove the temple records from New FamilySearch, how will we know what ordinances have been done?

A. You will no longer combine your ancestor with the temple record, but you will link to the temple record to show the ordinance has been done.


Q. Are all the official ordinances shown in NFS?

A. (One of the two:) Yes. That is the intent. As we discover ordinances (we’re 99.999%) that aren’t in there, if you have proof, contact Support.

A. (The other:) No. We don’t have all the temple records in the system today. We are still extracting paper records. Every 3 months when we release an update we also add records. About 5-6 million records will be added in the March release. The release notes point out that temple records were added from Asia temples. Millions more are still not in.


Q. If a distant relative has reserved an ordinance for an ancestor, and you are a closer relative, what can be done?

A. Contact them. We’re not going to get involved.


Q. If an ordinance is reserved for a long time, can it be un-reserved?

A. As long as the person who reserved the ordinance is living, it can’t be unreserved. In some areas of the world, individuals save for many years to travel to a temple. It would be disastrous if the individual finally made it to the temple and found their ancestors had been unreserved.

We know at some point we will have to address this issue. We are looking into several ideas:

  • Limit the number of ancestors a person can have reserved at one time
  • Placing a time limit on how long a reservation can last
  • Detect reservations of non-related people


Q. I have problems with Ancestors that NFS says “Needs More Information” for temple submission. When I change the birth information to be exactly the same as the christening information, then NFS will accept it. Why do I have to put in incorrect information?

A. If you have only a christening event, then the system will take that event to try to qualify. However, if there is anything in the birth fields the system will ignore the christening information. And if the text in the date field is insufficient to qualify then the ordinance will not be reserved. If there is nothing in the birth fields, then the system will use the christening information to attempt to qualify.

In this case you have a christening that can qualify but a birth that cannot, so NFS thinks the person does not qualify.

This is also true for death and burial. If there is a death then it ignores the burial, otherwise it uses the burial for qualification.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vault Vednesday: Conference Conflagration Conglomeration

2010 NGS Family History ConferenceIn today’s edition of Vault Vednesday I’ll talk about the plethora of conferences schedules for the days before the NGS Family History Conference. And I’ll spotlight some awards garnered by the microfilm operations in the vault.

Pre- and Post-Conferences and Workshops

Not since the Great Seagull Conflagration Conglomeration of ‘92 (a result of one of my kids dropping a sandwich on the beach) have I seen such a large aggregation. This time, however, it is not seagulls but genealogy conferences and workshops. As if you didn’t have enough reasons to attend the NGS Conference already!

Here’s the NGS Conference, itself:

Conference Dates (2010) Audience Cost
2010 NGS Conference 28 April – 1 May
Anyone excited to attend a premiere national conference and anyone else who has ancestors or a brain. $210 NGS member
$245 other
$100 single day


Here are the pre-conference conferences and workshops. Notice that the three BYU conferences usually held on campus are being held in Salt Lake City this year to accommodate attendees wishing to attend the NGS conference. Most of these do not require NGS registration. The exceptions might be the BCG Education Fund and the Librarians’ Program. If you have questions about these two, e-mail or call (703) 525-0050 ext. 112.

Conference Dates (2010) Audience Cost
BYU Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy 26-27 April
Anyone excited to attend a premiere regional conference or wanting an entire week of fun. $120
$25 student
FamilySearch Developer's Conference 27 April
Programmers excited about restful APIs, Flex, .NET, PHP, C#, XML, etc. Oh yeah, and genealogy. $75
$50 early
$25 student
BCG Education Fund Workshop
27 April
NGS registrants excited about learning early handwriting and synchronized research & reporting.
Limited to 60.
Lunch included. Register using NGS registration
Beginner’s Workshop 27 April
Beginners and those wanting to refresh their skills. Learn where to start and how to handle information from a wide variety of records. $30
Register using NGS registration
Family History Consultant Training Seminar 27 April
Family History Consultants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Free
No registration required
Librarians’ Program 27 April
Librarian NGS registrants excited to serve genealogists. Free
Register using NGS registration
Brigham Young University Family History Technology Workshop 28 April
Scholars excited about academic papers, bilateral filters, hidden-Markov models, statistical analysis (and genealogy). $75 advance
$85 door
$35 student


Here are the post-conference workshops. NGS conference registration is not required. Use the NGS conference registration to register for these workshops. If you have any questions, e-mail or call (703) 525-0050 ext. 112.

Workshop Dates (2010) Audience Cost
Genealogy 101 1 May, 9-noon,
Beginners and those wanting to refresh their skills. Learn where to start and how to handle information from a wide variety of records. $40 or free*
box lunch included
Genealogy 201 1 May, 9-noon,
Genealogists with some experience. Organize and maximize information from paper, microfilm, and digital sources. $40 or free*
box lunch included
Genealogy Kids Camp 1 May, 9-noon,
Kids grades 4 through 12. Fun classes, games, storytelling, Genealogy merit badge classes. Free
Space is limited

* Free (without box lunch) for NGS registrants.

Pre-registration must be postmarked by 12 April 2010. There are just 18 days left.
The conference begins 28 April 2010. There are just 34 days left.

Vault Awards

Van A Neiswender, left, honored for microfilm advancements In 1971 Van A. Neiswender (left, in the photograph)“was presented the third annual ‘Pioneer in Dry Photography Award’ by Kalvar Corp., New Orleans, for his ‘important contributions’ to the microfilming programs of [FamilySearch] and particularly for his part in establishing its extensive branch microfilm library.”

Kodak presents plaque to Elder Boyd K Packer, left Kodak recognized FamilySearch for its 50 year partnership in 1989. Company president, Kay Whitmore (center, in the photograph) presented a plaque to Elder Boyd K. Packer (left) and Richard W. Elbert, Jr. (right).


     "Microfilm Firm Honors Utahn," Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 24 February 1971, p. 18 A, cols. 1-2; digital images ( : accessed 25 December 2009). Neiswender, 100 branches.
     "Kodak Commemorates 50 Years of Helping LOS Church Meet Its Microfilming Needs," Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 24 February 1989, p. B 9, cols. 1-3; digital images ( : accessed 25 December 2009).

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Far Off Future of NFS

FamilySearch product managers, Ron Tanner and Tim Cross, talked about the long-term plans for New FamilySearch (NFS) during their presentations at the South Davis Family History Fair and the St. George Family History Expo, respectively. NFS is the FamilySearch tree product.

I’ve mentioned before that Tanner warns his audiences that he is a product manager and product managers can’t say when an improvement will be made. They can’t even promise that the improvement will ever be made. They can only talk about what might be. (Sounds a lot like a fairy godmother, doesn’t it?)

I’ve also mentioned before how funny Tanner is. True to form he had his audience rolling in the aisles. One funny part of his presentation was a series of hilarious traffic signs. This was one of my favorites:

In large letters: Caution! This Sign Has Sharp Edges. Do Not Touch the Edges.  Little letters: Also, the bridge is out ahead.

Tanner related the funny signs to the frustrations users have with the current NFS system. Speaking to the current limitations, Tanner quipped, “The general public doesn’t want to deal with this junk!”

Tanner explained the “Source Centric Open Edit” (SCOE) approach that he is driving towards. My article, “Top Secret FamilySearch Project,” covers a previous presentation by Tanner in which he gave a lot of detail about SCOE.

Source Centric Open Edit

While not mentioning SCOE by name, Cross called it “empowering the patron.” He stated the objectives of these changes to be:

  • increasing collaboration/communication
  • providing opportunities for users to serve
  • allowing patrons to be stewards of the information

There is a tricky balance between allowing users to make good changes and preventing users from making bad changes. The current system makes it much harder to correct bad combines (merges) than doing bad combines. SCOE seeks not only to make it just as easy to undo as to do, but to implement a way for users to receive notification when someone changes a person the user is interested in.

Person Page Prototype

Tanner showed an early prototype showing what the SCOE person page might look like. Parts of the interface used the same low-contrast, hard-to-read design as the beta website. Once Tanner tried to point something out on screen, only to discover that the light gray text on an off-white background was illegible. I hoped he didn’t rack up the problem to projector limitations. Certainly if a 50 year old product manager can’t read the text when projected, a 70-something patron will have problems, even on a computer screen. But I digress…

Unlike the current NFS, which uses tabs to divide up personal information, parents and siblings, spouses and children, possible duplicates, etc., the prototype had all the information on one, long page. I suppose this was done because it is felt that scrolling is more natural for users than clicking the tabs. In my experience, I find that many users never think of scrolling, which is why it is so important to keep vital information “above the fold.” But again I digress…

The prototype page included:

  • Possible matching records from Record Search.
  • Possible duplicates in the NFS tree.
  • Theories, with discussion and links to sources.
  • List of recent changes. A complete log of changes allows detection of pedigree wars.
  • Banners similar to those on Wikipedia, indicating ancestors that needed attention. Here are some example Wikipedia banners:
    Example Wikipedia banners 
    Tanner’s example banners included:
    • This ancestor has no sources.
    • This ancestor needs attention from an expert.
  • Community requests. Send a request out to the community if you need an artifact, gravestone photo, record translation, and so forth.
  • Artifacts

Sidney Tanner
FamilySearch is working towards
linking artifacts to the NFS tree


Artifacts are the sources, pictures, stories, web links, and other things about an ancestor besides the basic facts. Tanner showed an example artifact, a picture of one of his ancestors (right). Then he mused, “Why is it that the only surviving pictures of our ancestors look like their driver license photographs?”

Genealogical best practice is to keep source artifacts separate from conclusion trees. For whatever reason, perhaps to kick-start the NFS tree, FamilySearch poured in a bunch of source artifacts: Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index (IGI), most of the Pedigree Resource Files (PRF), temple records, and membership records. To maintain the integrity of temple records and membership records, the information from them could not be corrected.

Now it is time to pull these artifacts back out into separately searchable collections. The information from the artifacts will remain in the tree, with links to them. This allows users to fix any information in the tree, regardless of its source. And the sources can be searched independently, allowing specialized searches, such as by batch number.

When asked about patron submitted artifacts, Tanner said it is one of the top three changes he is working towards, the other two being discussions/disputes and undo/logging user changes.

You’ll want to listen closely to your fairy godmother. Be home by midnight. And with any luck, the prince will show up with these changes, albeit in lots of little changes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NFS Releasing to the General Public

Welcome to the new FamilySearchNew FamilySearch (NFS) will soon be available to the general public, according to FamilySearch product managers, Ron Tanner and Tim Cross.

At the South Davis Family History Fair and the St. George Family History Expo, respectively, the two revealed new information about the near future of the FamilySearch tree product, New FamilySearch (NFS). The NFS tree is a shared, world tree currently available only to member’s of FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tanner gave his usual disclaimer: Product managers don’t say when an improvement will be made and they don’t make promises the improvement will ever be made. They only talk about what could be.

What is happening in the near future?

One of the top priorities is the release of CJKC versions of NFS. CJKC stands for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Cyrillic.

Another is enabling communication and collaboration among NFS users. The audience erupted in applause when Ron Tanner said, “My job is to get rid of disputes.” Toward that end, an upcoming release includes a Discussion tab on each ancestor. Tim Cross explained that disputes were a first stab at collaboration. The Dispute tab provides a better discussion forum. He thought it might be available in about four months.

The much anticipated release of the NFS tree to the general public is another near term priority. Tanner said, “We have a goal of getting the general public in by the end of the year. But we’re not just going to open the door for everyone.” He mentioned one possibility was allowing each user to invite a few family and friends. I know Google uses this method, apparently successfully.

When asked about the applicability of the NFS tree for uses beyond submitting temple ordinances, Tanner responded, “The system must be genealogically sound in addition to preventing duplication of ordinances.”

Cross also mentioned the goal of expanding the development community, which I will cover in a future article. But first, I need to talk about the long-term plans for NFS next time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Really, Really Near Future of NFS

Common login is gradually coming to all FamilySearch websites
Common login, included in the March release of NFS,
is gradually coming to all FamilySearch websites

FamilySearch product managers, Ron Tanner and Tim Cross, talked about an imminent release of New FamilySearch (NFS) in their presentations at the South Davis Family History Fair and the St. George Family History Expo, respectively.

FamilySearch took five years to release the first version of the NFS tree in 2007. It took another 1.5 years for the next release. After Tanner came to FamilySearch, they decided to do a release every three months. FamilySearch has succeeded in that endeavor. That means instead of big changes, you’ll see lots of smaller changes.

The February release of the NFS tree is about a month behind. It was a little more than a week ago that Tanner thought it might be ready for release in about a week. Let’s see… Subtract a week… Add a week… Carry the one… Round down… If my math is correct then the February release should be available when you read this. If not, then… uh… it might be ready in about a week.

The née February March release has these “smaller” changes:

  • It includes the common sign-in that FamilySearch intends to implement across all its websites.
  • Family Tree view now includes Go To self
    Family Tree view now includes Go to... self
  • The Go to… button in the Family Tree view is pre-populated with the user’s name, making it easy to return to the user.
  • GEDCOM upload checks for duplicates.
  • GEDCOM upload no longer automatically reserves all ordinances, but gives the option per individual.
  • When you move away from the Me and My Ancestors tab and come back, the Family Tree view looks the way it did when you left it.
  • The IOUS-prevention limit has been increased from 150 to 250.
  • The automatic logout time has been upped from 20 minutes to 60 minutes.
  • Many new products have been certified since the last release. To see the current list, click here.

Tune in next time when I will talk about the near future of NFS.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New FamilySearch Technology

Welcome to the new FamilySearchThe technology of the New FamilySearch tree (NFS) was one topic FamilySearch product manager, Ron Tanner, talked about at the recent South Davis Family History Fair.

Tanner shared a 1995 quote from Howard W. Hunter, a deceased president of FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The quote expresses the Church’s belief that technology plays a divine role in FamilySearch’s genealogical efforts:

Howard W Hunter, © IRIIn recent years we have begun using information technology to hasten the sacred work of providing ordinances for the deceased. The role of technology in this work has been accelerated by the Lord himself, who has had a guiding hand in its development and will continue to do so. However, we stand only on the threshold of what we can do with these tools. I feel that our most enthusiastic projections can capture only a tiny glimpse of how these tools can help us—and of the eternal consequences of these efforts.1

The NFS tree website uses quite a bit of heavy technology. The tree runs on 640 servers, 370 of which are needed just to provide search capabilities. The tree now contains 1.4 billion people and takes 20 terabytes to store it. The tree database is so large, according to Tanner, that server manufacturers send them computers to test the computer’s ability to handle databases of that size. “We’re pushing the envelope,” said Tanner.

FamilySearch creates two separate backups of the NFS tree. One copy is created by continuously copying changes that are made to the tree. Periodically, they make complete copies that they also copy to microfilm.

Currently, new releases of the NFS tree software are rolled live on Sunday mornings from 2 to 3 AM. This one hour is the only window during the entire week that none of the Church’s temples are communicating with the system. FamilySearch is investigating technology to allow “hot” updates. While this makes changes more convenient, the technology is partly needed because bringing Asia online will completely close the current release window.


     1. Howard W. Hunter, “We Have a Work to Do,” Ensign, March 1995, 64; online archives ( : accessed 13 March 2010).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Insider Ketchup for 12 March 2010

Ancestry Insider KetchupAs I mentioned yesterday, I’m a titch behind. Time to ketchup again. So much to write about, so little time.

Bullet Ancestry.comValerie C. of Begin With ‘Craft’ posted some interesting comments about a new YouTube video titled, “Getting Started on”

Bullet posted a new database recently called, “U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 2.” The data source is Merlin Data Publishing, the same source of the original Public Records Index (PRI) before emasculated it for their partnership with A search for “Barack Obama” in the original PRI returned nine instances of the president. A search in the emasculated PRI returns no matches. A search in Volume 2 returns two matches, one of which didn’t appear in the original PRI. While we are all critical of the change, I applaud for maintaining tree attachments to records in the original PRI. If they had broken all those links, people would have been madder than Johnny Depp.

Bullet Ancestry.comSpeaking of databases,’s Chad Milliner announced earlier this month that would begin updating the Social Security Death Index every week. Previously, they updated it once a month. A free alternative that also updates weekly is

FamilySearch BulletFamilySearch is encouraging the growth of online genealogical communities. I noticed one community pop up as a result. On the FamilySearch Forums (beta), user GrammaJules from Florissant, Missouri reported that a handful of FamilySearch Indexing users have set up a Skype chat room to facilitate sharing a batch. The share batch feature of FamilySearch Indexing lets indexers share a view of a batch so a second person can help figure out hard-to-read writing.

Skype is free. If no one is in the chat room when you need help, you can leave a message with the share information. To participate, send a private message to GrammaJules with your name and email and she will invite you in to the chat room.

ALA Preservation Week is 9-15 May 2010Bullet Ancestry.comIf you haven’t noticed, the blog has received a new look. The new look matches the page design that is gradually introducing throughout the website.

BulletTreeThe American Library Association has announced that 9-15 May 2010 will be its first Preservation Week. Check out their website for ideas on how you, your local library, family history organization, or family history center can participate. Check out their website for “easy-to-follow guidelines for protecting personal treasures, family heirlooms, and collectibles.” They also sale bookmarks and posters designed to inspire patrons to explore their ancestry.

Bullet Ancestry.comIf you’re wondering why I haven’t been blogging every day of late, blame At the St. George Family History Expo I took advantage of their free photograph and document scanning service. They filled a free flash drive with scans of my documents. offers free document digitization at major conferences

Now I’m going through the scans, squaring them up, cropping them, and uploading them to my family trees. Numerous relatives have already seen them and added copies to their own trees. (My goodness; I love the Internet!)

Elizabeth Robinson

Lately they have been offering this free service at most major genealogy shows. As I’m writing this, you can still read the preparatory instructions for St. George. If you’re coming to NGS, prepare beforehand so you can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.


Shoot! Out of time again. I guess you’ll be getting more ketchup next week. But before I go, one last item:


BulletTreeDon’t forget “Who Do You Think You Are?” tonight. Up tonight is football legend, Emmitt Smith.

Who Do You Think You Are? Friday evening on NBC

Of tonight’s episode, Andrew Wait of told me, “I grew up in the bay area, so I’m not a Dallas Cowboys fan. But Emmett Smith’s story… Wow. I would take a bullet for that man.” Tune in tonight to find out why.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fav 40: Thank You, My Friends!

Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs I’m a titch behind in my email. In February I received a notice that I’m just now reading—in March—that the May issue of Family Tree Magazine lists the Ancestry Insider as one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, as voted by you, my favorite people. Thank you very much! At least I hope it was you, and not the 800 times I voted for myself or the 300 times my mother voted for me, or… or… But I digress…

I have to agree with my long-lost cousin, the Genealogy Insider, who said,

That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t many more stellar blogs among the hundreds family historians use to chronicle their successes and brick walls, share history, offer genealogy guidance and more. All their legions of posts add up to an extraordinary store of collective knowledge about how to discover, preserve and celebrate your family history.

If you, my favorite people, would like to see a complete list of the Fav 40, click on over to the Genealogy Insider blog. If you want to explore a larger list, check out all the nominees at “Vote for Your Fav 40.” (Don’t skip the comments, either, or you won’t see the blog suggestion from Lynn Turner, the man who gave my non-existent Spanish a C! Can you believe that? What an easy grader! I bet I can read more Chinese than Spanish! But I digress…)

I am also very grateful to Family Tree Magazine for this honor. The staff there are my favorite people. You, them: both favorites. They are like another favorite. You’re favorite. They’re favorite. Both favorites. Both good.

Did I mention you are my favorite people?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vault Vednesday: FamilySearch Expansion

2010 NGS Family History ConferenceIn today’s edition of Vault Vednesday I’ll talk about Thursday classes at the NGS Family History Conference and the expansion of FamilySearch services.

NGS Conference Thursday’s Classes

A couple of weeks ago I shared my class picks for Vednesday. Here are just a few of the Thursday classes on my radar. For other classes you might enjoy better, check the schedule.

You may have missed the early-bird deadline, but don’t fret. Pre-registration can be postmarked up until 12 April 2010. There are just 33 days left.The conference begins 28 April 2010. There are just 49 days left.

FamilySearch Expansion

In January 1964, microfilm copying equipment was moved from the Taylor Building in Salt Lake City to the new Granite Mountain Record Vault (GMRV). Finishing work in offices and laboratory space was nearly complete and finishing of corridor floors later that spring would complete the vault.

The ability to economically copy microfilm at the vault made it possible for FamilySearch (under its previous name, the Genealogical Society of Utah) to experiment with branch libraries of the Salt Lake Family History Library

In 1964 FamilySearch announced that the first branch library would be established at the Brigham Young University library in Provo, Utah. Others would be created in Logan, Utah; Cardston, Canada; Mesa, Arizona; and Oakland, California. Branch libraries extended the microfilm resources held in Salt Lake to far away locations. The Family History Library card catalog was microfilmed for distribution to the branches. It was hoped that after a successful pilot, other branches would be added beyond these first five. Today we know branch libraries as Family History Centers (FHCs) and over 4,500 exist around the world.

Microfilming began in 1924. In 1968 FamilySearch added 46,000 microfilms, bringing its collection up to 650,000. Huge processing machines developed 85 feet of microfilm a minute, or about 80,000 feet a day. The number of family history centers had grown to 81, located in 37 states, Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico. The Family History Library had 230 microfilm readers and served 140,000 patrons each year. It held 90,000 books and added more than 200 new volumes each month.


     The Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Records Protection in an Uncertain World, 16 p. brochure ([Salt Lake City, Utah: self-published, 1973]).
     Arnold Irvine, "Genealogy… A Happy Epidemic Spreads," Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 18 January 1964, Church News section, pp. 1, 8-9; digital images ( : accessed 25 December 2009).
     "World Conference On Records," Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 2 August 1969, Church News section, pp. 1, 3-11; digital images ( : accessed 25 December 2009).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rate Your Genealogical Maturity

Want to be a better genealogist? Take the inventory below to identify a baby step you can take to become a better genealogist.

In each table below, read the descriptions for each level. Place a check mark in the row that best describes you. If you have any questions about the meaning of words, read “Genealogical Maturity Model (GMM) Definitions.”


# Level Sources Check
1. Entry

Typically relies on compiled genealogies.

2. Emerging

Mostly relies on compiled genealogies and online sources.

3. Practicing

Uses a limited number of record types and repositories. Mostly relies on online and microfilmed sources.

4. Proficient

Uses a wide variety of record types. Often contacts record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.

5. Stellar

Insightfully pursues research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a plethora of records and record types. "Burned counties" are not roadblocks.



# Level Citations Check
1. Entry

Captures URLs for online sources and citations for published sources.

2. Emerging

Increasingly captures necessary information for manuscript sources.

3. Practicing

Typically produces complete source citations.

4. Proficient

Gives complete and accurate source citations including provenance and quality assessment.

5. Stellar

Overcomes limitations of genealogical software to create well organized, industry standard reference notes and source lists.



# Level Information Check
1. Entry

Typically does not realize the need to judge information quality and has no basis for doing so.

2. Emerging

Emerging realization that information quality differs. Muddles evaluation by thinking of primary/secondary sources instead of primary/secondary information, leading to muddled evaluation when sources contain both.

3. Practicing

Judges information by source type, informant knowledge, and record timing. Applies "primary/secondary" to information instead of sources.

4. Proficient

Additionally, learns history necessary to recognize and evaluate all explicit information in a source.

5. Stellar

Additionally, utilizes implicit information in a source. Finds information in cases like illegitimacy that stump most researchers.



# Level Evidence Check
1. Entry

Limited understanding of evidence and the role it plays. Typically ignores conflicting evidence.

2. Emerging

Captures direct, supporting evidence and increasingly depends upon it.

3. Practicing

Additionally, captures directly conflicting evidence.

4. Proficient

Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, supporting evidence.

5. Stellar

Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, conflicting evidence.



# Level Conclusions Check
1. Entry

In the absence of analysis, reaches conclusions by instinct.

2. Emerging

Learning to evaluate the quality of sources, information, and evidence. Emerging ability to resolve minor discrepancies.

3. Practicing

Additionally, resolves conflicting evidence or uses it to disprove prevalent opinion. Usually applies correct identity to persons mentioned in sources.

4. Proficient

Additionally, when necessary creates soundly reasoned, coherently documented conclusions utilizing direct and indirect evidence.

5. Stellar

Additionally: Publishes clear and convincing conclusions. Teaches and inspires others.


Conclusion Trees

# Level Conclusion Trees Check
1. Entry

Merges or combines individuals in trees without evidence.

2. Emerging

Growing hesitancy to merge or combine individuals without evidence.

3. Practicing

Never merges entire compiled genealogies into own tree. Contributes or changes community trees only with evidence.

4. Proficient

Manages evidence separately from conclusion tree. Not interested in trusting high quality conclusions to a low maturity community tree.

5. Stellar

Publishes highly respected conclusion trees.



Review the categories and pick one to work on. See what you need to do to advance from your current level to the next level. Make that your goal. Don’t try and work on all categories at once. Baby steps. Don’t try to skip levels. Baby steps. Commit to yourself and focus your efforts on that one, little goal.

Once you’ve accomplished that goal, come back and pick another area for improvement.

What Level Are You?

This next exercise is optional. It is a non-scientific method of determining your “genealogical maturity.” Write your level number in the table below for each category above. Add up all the numbers and write the total in the last row.

Category Level
Conclusion Trees  


In the table below, find the range that includes your score. Your genealogical maturity is listed on the same row.

Range Maturity Level
6 - 11 1.  Entry
12 - 17 2.  Emerging
18 - 23 3.  Practicing
24 - 29 4.  Proficient
30 5.  Stellar


Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a five, or a four, or even a full three. No level is good or bad. It’s just like kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school. There is no shame in having gone through the levels. That’s normal. And remember, these levels are not scientific.

The important thing is that you concentrate on the small, realistic, measurable, baby steps that will make you a better genealogist.