Friday, September 30, 2011

Darned Gender-Specific Names

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Gender-Specific Names

With the public slowly getting access to the New FamilySearch Tree, it bears repeating lessons learned.

When I first got access, I went in and started cleaning up the riff raff. The more ancestry you have in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the more garbage you will find. For five generations Mormon genealogies were hand copied (or typed) with mistakes (and typos) from parent to child among an ever widening fan of cousins. Reconciling the many different versions is herculean, but to guarantee it would be done wrong, FamilySearch produced the Ancestral File using error-prone machine combinations of patron submissions. Then they provided GEDCOM download and PAF’s hideous merge feature. Lest all this hard-earned garbage die too quickly, FamilySearch preloaded it into the tree and dared participants to clean it up.

That brings me back to my first session in the tree. I only meant to poke around and see what was there. But the errors were obvious (and legion). The temptation was too strong. I started correcting. Just small stuff at first. Several hours passed without notice and I realized I had corrected dozens of errors by sight—without consulting my sources.

Lesson learned? Don’t do that!

FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer, David Rencher, suffered the raw end of someone making such a change. The tree says his father’s name is Joy Thomas Rencher even though his grandfather’s name is correctly shown as Thomas Jay Rencher.


Some kind soul “fixed” this, changing the son’s name to match his father’s. Like me in my first foray into the new FamilySearch Tree, the person made changes without specifying a source. Had they consulted sources, they would have found Joy’s death certificate:


David Rencher confirmed that his father’s name was Joy. He said that Joy is a common male given name among the Danes in the White Mountain area of Northern Arizona in Mormon Settlements. He knows of six men named Joy in that region.

Yes, records say the darnedest things. But they should be consulted prior to making changes in the New FamilySearch Tree.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It’s Not My Fault! URL Citation Principles

I apologize about the broken FamilySearch image links in last Friday’s article, “Darned Second Enumerations.” But I must say, IT WAS NOT MY FAULT! At the time I wrote the article, the links worked. Today, they don’t.

Long time users will recall has broken links to their images on several occasions. In particular, when switched image viewers (they used to use a 3rd party viewer called MrSID), all links, favorites, and bookmarks to their census images broke.

The same seems to be true for Since I wrote the article before released a new image viewer. The old links still bring up the old viewer—with a message that says, “The image is currently unavailable. Please try again later.” That confused me for several minutes. The message is misleading and should be reworded.

Old FamilySearch links display misleading message

Here are the images from Friday’s article, with the links repaired.

1870 Census, 1st enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2 1870 Census, 1st enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2
(Links to image:, ($), Internet Archives)

1870 Census, 2nd enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 1 1870 Census, 2nd enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2
(Links to image:, ($), Internet Archives)

Citation Principles

This situation is illustrative of a couple of citation principles.

1. When you print a record, make certain you write a complete citation in the margin. Write it on the front so it isn’t lost when photocopying. The website should do this for you. But if you’re using a lame website, add it when you print it.

2. A web address or URL is never a sufficient citation. Addresses change. And they change more frequently than vendors would like to admit.

I included full citational information in Friday’s article and it certainly saved my bacon.

Repairing Broken FamilySearch Image Links

If you have old links and you didn’t save enough citation information to easily relocate the record, there is an easy way to find it. But you may have to work fast. I fully expect FamilySearch will inadvertently break this workaround when they “fix” the aforesaid misleading message.

When you get to the page with the misleading message, look at the breadcrumb trail and image number. It contains the citational information. Add the information to your citation. To view the record and get the new URL, use the breadcrumb information.


In the example above, it is “United States Census, 1870 > New York > New York > New York City, ward 01 > Image 396 of 792.”

Don’t Try This at Home

For the technically savvy, it is possible to directly edit the URL. If you aren’t technically savvy, skip now to the conclusion.

Being able to fix addresses is rare, but in this case it is possible. Consider this a temporary fix to get you to the record. Again, you ought to act fast. Once you’ve found the record, capture the citation. It is only a matter of time before something else changes and this method no longer works.

Follow these steps:

  1. Click the link or otherwise paste the old address into your browser. You will see the error message above (until FamilySearch fixes it).
  2. Delete this part, starting with the slash before search and ending with the word records:

  3. Replace “pal%3A” with “pal:”
  4. Replace “%3Fcc%3D” with “?cc=”
  5. Replace “%26wc%3D” with “&wc=”

For example, the old address of the second image above is

Deleting this part:



Replacing “pal%3A” with “pal:” gives

Replacing “%3Fcc%3D” with “?cc=” gives

Replacing “%26wc%3D” with “&wc=” gives the address you can use temporarily to see the image and record the necessary citation information.


Standards and best practices exist so each of us don’t have to learn the hard way (or should I say, relearn) the mistakes of the past. A web address or URL is never sufficient. If you don’t create a full citation, it is just a matter of time before you regret it.

Monday, September 26, 2011 Planning New and Expanded Health Offering

imageThe Insider has learned from an undisclosed source that is planning to rebrand and expand its DNA offerings into genetics and health. The service may be called AncestryHealth or AncestryDNA.

The service will continue to provide DNA testing services and will likely expand scientific analyses and informational reports based on the results. As reported by Dick Eastman, is “mounting a major effort to use genomics to shed light on human diversity, origins and relatedness.”

The service will continue to provide family group websites and may host a website for others to access and share information and data in the fields of historical data and information, genealogy and family history.

The new offering may add significant educational resources such as articles, journals, newsletters, and guides in the field of genetic and family history. might also sponsor classes, workshops, and educational conferences.

My source had no information on the timing or eventuality of this new service. Stay tuned…

Friday, September 23, 2011

Darned Second Enumerations

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Second Enumerations

Beginning with the 1940 census, the census bureau has formally evaluated the coverage of the census. Certain groups such as indigents, migrants, and minorities are difficult to count accurately.1

One of the largest reasons for under-enumeration is the difficulty in identifying and locating some housing units. While this can occur in either rural or urban environments, major cities have federal block grants at risk and have sued over suspected undercounts.2  In 1870, enumerators failed to record addresses in New York City. Oops. Addresses serve the same purpose for census officials as citations for genealogists. Without documentation, census officials could not refute allegations that households had been missed. Census superintendent Francis A. Walker ordered a recount. (Recounts were also made in Philadelphia and Indianapolis.3) These recounts are known as the 1870 Second Enumeration. The first enumeration occurred in June 1870 and the second about six months later.4  

1870 Census, 1st enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2
1870 Census, 1st enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2
(Links to image:, ($), Internet Archives)

1870 Census, 2nd enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 1 
1870 Census, 2nd enumeration of New York City 1st Ward, 1st District, page 2
(Links to image:, ($), Internet Archives)

While recognizes the difference between the two enumerations in its browse structure, FamilySearch does not: accounts for the two enumerations in its browse structure   FamilySearch does not recognize the different enumerations in its browse structure

Curiously, upon first examination the two enumerations of New York City bear little resemblance. The explanation lies in the fact that between enumerations the election districts changed, making it difficult to compare the two. You may have guessed another difference; addresses were recorded the second time.4  

Yes, records say the darnedest things.


     1.  “Coverage Measurement,” U.S. Census Bureau ( : accessed 9 August 2011).

     2.  William Dollarhide, The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules, and Indexes (North Salt Lake, Utah: ProQuest, 2001), 2-3; PDF online ( : accessed 9 August 2011).

     3.  Margo J. Anderson, The American Census: A Social History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 89; online preview, Google Books ( : accessed 9 August 2011).

     4.  Charles Sullivan, “The 1870 Federal Census for New York City,” Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page, compiled by Nancy E. Lutz ( : accessed 9 August 2011), click “1870 Federal Census Aide,” “New York City 1870 Finding Aid.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Darned Physicality and Organization

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records are the Darnedest Things.”

Records Are the Darnedest Things: Physicality and Organization

Failing to recognize the context within which a record exists is a common mistake made by record publishers and new genealogists. Because microfilm and digital images keep us at arm’s length from the actual record, we must make special efforts to understand its physicality and organization. A single image may look like this:

 The first page of a passenger manifest may be just half of the record

But when combined with the following image, a picture of the original record starts to emerge.Passenger lists commonly run across two pages

To understand a record’s physicality and organization, as a minimum you will want to view a couple of the images beforehand and a couple afterwards. If possible, you should also check front matter, the spine, and front and back covers.

I say “if possible” because record publishers don’t understand the importance of presenting records in context. It is rare to find accessible, legible images of covers, spine, front matter, and pages without names. marketing promotion of their U.S. Immigration CollectionI remember an experience at that illustrates the point (although I don’t remember all the specifics). Someone (marketing perhaps) published something (the website pictured to the right, perhaps) about the U.S. Immigration Collection. When a company genealogist asked about it, the someone was amazed to learn that passenger lists commonly have second pages with lots of juicy information.

For the marketing website pictured to the right, knowing about second pages may not have made a difference. Keeping the handwriting large prevents showing all the columns of one page, let alone two. But I digress…

To understand a record, you must understand its physicality and organization.

Yes, records are the darnedest things...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

19.40 and Some Change

Ransom Love addresses the 2011 BYU Family History Conference
File photo: Ransom Love conference presentation
“What if we took the 1940 census and made it a community project? Really!” said Ransom Love of FamilySearch. “We believe we can do that, pull these resources together, and have a full index within six months. Do you realize what that would mean?”

Love, Senior Vice President of Strategic Relations at FamilySearch International, made the remarks in a luncheon at the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies underway this week in Springfield, Illinois.

Love’s topic was “Creating Change Together” and he spoke of several opportunities to do so, including a community effort to index the 1940 census.

Archives are facing deep challenges and need a change for the better. FamilySearch is offering its technologies so that, together, they are better positioned to deal with the challenges. (See “FamilySearch Embracing the World” for more information.) Among other projects was Italian Civil Registration.

The other day I came across what appears to be another collaboration between FamilySearch (doing business as the Genealogical Society of Utah) and the National Archive of Peru. A webpage on their site states, “El Archivo General de la Nación a través del convenio suscrito con la Sociedad Genealógica de Utah pone a disposición de los usuarios el índice e imágenes digitalizadas de los Registros Civiles de Lima y Callao (1887-1918).”

That’s all Greek to me… or in this case, Greek Spanish… but you can see the results of the project at Scroll down the page and click one of the “ver” links.

But I digress…

FamilySearch is exploring another collaboration concept: regional digitization centers. FamilySearch is currently working with (formerly to digitize the Civil War widows pension files. With 2 or 3 cameras, the project will extend over a hundred years. “Now that’s a little depressing,” said Love. If NARA and partners were to establish a regional digitization center equipped with hundreds of cameras, it could cut the time to 6 to 8 years.

For those of you keeping score, it is
   FamilySearch presentations attended: 3
   FamilySearch presentations suggesting participation in indexing the 1940 census: 3

FamilySearch and its many volunteers and partners are creating change.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Insider Uncovers Secret Program

San Diego Genealogical Society collections published via Content Publisher
San Diego Genealogical Society collections
published on Content Publisher.
Click to enlarge.
O.K. Perhaps I exaggerate… but only a little. While the program is no longer secret, very few people know about it.

To learn about it, I snuck into a private briefing given during the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). O.K. that may not be entirely true either. I didn’t sneak in, I was invited. It wasn’t a private briefing, it was a focus group. And I didn’t first learn about it at FGS; briefed a number of us at the NGS conference.

So with subsequent adieu, I present Content Publisher.

There is a lot of great content out there that is just too small to warrant the attention of the Ancestry.coms and FamilySearches of the world. Content Publisher allows genealogical societies or other small record custodians to self publish such collections.

Laurel Penney, Steve Yesel, and Mark Weaver conducted the focus group. About a dozen society representatives attended. presented the concept, demonstrated it, fielded questions, and distributed questionnaires. The program is a couple of months into a six month pilot.

image provides indexing tools
for society use. Click to enlarge. provides free hosting for images. Societies upload their images to the site. provides indexing tools for society use. Once the society completes indexing, takes the indexes and images and hosts the collection for the society. The society gets a free, branded web page (see San Diego Genealogical Society’s for an example), with the images and indexes stored safely and securely using the same systems used by to protect their own content. Societies can then make the collection available to whomever they choose via a special URL (see a Lockport History Society example). Collection search utilizes’s search technology. After the pilot is over, the collection appears in the catalog and search results. Record and image views identify the society as the collection source, possibly increasing interest in the society.

“We’re hoping this is a win-win for both sides,” said product manager, Steve Yesel. has added a feature between the NGS and FGS conferences. Societies often have existing databases or spreadsheets of textual data that they wish to post. The collection page appears as shown below, left. The content appears as shown below, right. Content Publisher text collection page Content Publisher text record page
For textual data, the collection page (left) and the records (right). Click to enlarge.

Conference dementia is setting in, so I may not have all the details correct. In a sense, that doesn’t matter. In response to what is learned in the focus groups, the resulting program may differ in some respects. Content Publisher collection page Content Publisher collection
page. Click above and select a collection. said that the society maintains control of published content. In hindsight, I should have asked what that means. At one point said that the content could be available only to society members. At another point said that at least indexes would have to be available on, free to anyone. The only control that seems to be given to societies is the ability to remove the content from

The model seems to be built on the premise that societies want to offer their holdings for free, but need indexing tools and free hosting. While was amenable to the idea of societies monetizing the collections, they didn’t yet have a clear way to make that happen.

But with societies already fighting dropping membership numbers, in no small part because subscription websites are outcompeting societies for the meager dollars genealogists spend on memberships and subscriptions, it will be a bitter pill for society officers to throw their indexing workforce towards fueling’s ability to steal their members.

Neither FamilySearch nor can provide societies a win-win solution for those that wish to monetize themselves out of financial brinksmanship. FamilySearch doesn’t seem able to deal commercially. doesn’t seem willing.

In truth, even if were able to offer societies per-click royalties, or empower societies to charge for image views, all a societies records are dust compared to’s 8 billion records. Imagine that an subscriber visited equally all 8 billion records. Divide their subscription price up 8 billion ways, pay a society their share, and what the society gets rounds to zero. The reality is worse; most clicks will go to big, popular collections.

There’s a certain irony that’s Content Publisher program can only be successful if societies follow the counsel of FamilySearch’s David Rencher: Concentrate on your core society purposes while sharing a passion and having fun. Push costs and membership fees toward zero.

Only then does Content Publisher become a win-win scenario.

To see Content Publisher for yourselves, visit

And now as promised, adieu.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can I Get an Amen?!

Lisa Arnold of“I want to know with confidence that my tree is sound,” said Lisa Arnold. “Can I get an amen?”

Ask a room full of genealogists if they want sound trees on She got an amen. She got a big amen!

Lisa Arnold, of made the remarks in her session, “Online Trees: Ancestry’s Powerful Tool Keeps Getting Better!” at the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

After the perfunctory big, impressive numbers (1.6 million paying subscribers, 6 billion records, 25 million trees with 2.5 billion profiles, and 60 million user contributed photos, documents, and stories) Arnold showed an video from YouTube (which I’ve posted before). It is titled, “Behind the Scenes at”

To see online, go to

It is no secret that I love’s Member Trees. Yes, I still have friends at and does curry my favor. No, that is not why I keep my own tree there. Arnold gave the reasons:

  • I can perform a search about an ancestor without retyping their information every time.
  • I can connect records to the people in my tree.
  • It is free. To be clear, the previous bullet items require a subscription, or a family member with a subscription who trusts you enough to share their tree with you. But the following bullet items are available for free (if you are willing to give up your e-mail address to
  • I can upload photos and documents. To preserve these kinds of things, you want to have more than one copy. Having a copy online is a nice backup for the copy on your computer.
  • I can easily publish posters and books. With the click of a button, will take the photos from my tree and build a pedigree poster or the skeleton of a book.

Another reason some people like trees is the ability to make contact with other relatives. (This can be done without disclosing personal information.) I contribute so much more than I get, that isn’t much incentive for me. But Arnold shared some amazing stories.

One woman discovered a picture of herself with her great grandmother; she had never seen it before. (Inadvertent disclosure of information about living people is one weakness of the tree system. I uncovered the names of children of several executives because they captioned photographs with the names of their children and then attached the photographs to deceased ancestors. Lesson: Don’t do that. But I digress… Back to amazing stories.)

One woman lost contact with her sister 27 years ago and after exhausting all avenues for finding her, had given up. Not long ago a leaf appeared in her Ancestry Member Tree next to her father’s name. That struck her as curious. The leaf signaled that had found a possible match in another member’s tree. She contacted the owner and couldn’t believe her eyes. The owner was her sister. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she wrote. “I was so excited and moved until all I could do was laugh and cry all at once.” The two have been in constant contact since, catching up on their lives.

New Stuff

I think I shared some of these new features before, just after NGS. If so, I apologize. A caveat goes with vendor lists of new features. “New” is a relative term; until there is something sexier to market, you get the same old list. (Maybe having nothing new to say is why’s upper management seems to have boycotted FGS.)

  • With Family Tree Maker (FTM) 2012, you will be able to sync your online tree with your local FTM file. FTM 2012 is in beta, but you can pre-order it online at for a savings of 20%.
  • “View relationship to me” is an easy way to see how people are related.
  • There is a new pedigree view. It can expand to fill your monitor.
  • There is more control when merging census families into your tree. “Not a match” prevents merging incorrect records. “Not a new person” allows manual linking when isn’t able to find an existing match.
  • has an iPhone/iPad app. Very cool. I need to get me one of those… It does not yet show hinting, allow integrated search, or support Android. Those features are supposed to be coming. But you can attach photographs you’ve just taken.

Copyright Infringement

You got’s attention, thank you, with your comments to my article, “Ancestry Removing Find a Grave Photos?” Arnold said she was asked by management to add a slide on copyright infringement. It made these points:

  • If you take photos from any website without permission and especially proper attribution, you run the risk of having a cease and desist issued.
  • wanted it clear that they tell users: “Be aware that content, including photographs, even if submitted to a site of which you are a member, belongs to the creator or submitter and you should not reproduce it without permission of the owner.” (I can just hear the lawyers in the background. “It’s not our fault! It’s not our fault!”)
  • As an alternative, suggests using Web Links. (I sure liked using the browser toolbar to establish web links. Too bad it no longer works in Firefox—despite Firefox having a larger market share than Internet Explorer.)
  • You can also create a source that links to “the Find A Grave memorial.” (Yes, they mentioned Find A Grave explicitly. I’m tellin’ ya; you got their attention.)

If you have questions, contact (Ya’ got’ta love nameless corporations.)

Garbage Trees

When teaching a class Arnold assigned students to start a tree and enter their family. The next week, one student reported that she had entered a tree and now had 19,000 people in her tree. Arnold said she had obviously not taught the subject well. “Are you sure you’re related to all those people?” she asked. “Well, told me I was.”

“Don’t you do that!” said Arnold sternly. “When you build your tree, have your family information with you.” Only after you have entered well sourced information should you look at other trees.

Amen to that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

NARA: Thank You, FGS

David Ferriero addresses the FGS Conference
“I have personally experienced the excitement of your work,” said David S. Ferriero in his keynote address this week at the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Springfield, Illinois.

Many years ago, his Grandmother Toomey gave him the Toomey family Bible. The information was fascinating. He was pulled in. It was this Bible he used when he was sworn in as the tenth Archivist of the United States.

The National Archives serve an important role. “The work we do every day is rooted in the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records of their government,” said Ferriero. “They also have the right to learn about their families and those that came before them.”

“When FGS was founded [35 years ago], researchers spent long hours looking at page after page and taking hand-written notes,” said Ferriero. “Now, researchers come armed with scanners, digital cameras, and other electronic devices to copy traditional paper records, and we have installed WiFi in our Washington and College Park buildings to help them do their work. Many of the documents researchers need today are available on the Internet.”

When Ferriero started researching his paternal line he dug through NARA immigration files, unable to find their passage through Ellis Island. When he switched to online records, he quickly found his ancestors came through Boston, not New York!

Ferriero thanked FGS for being a great partner and for their money raising efforts to digitize the 1812 pension application case files. He said it consisted of 7.2 million pages in 180,000 case files. (Just prior to Ferriero’s address, Curt Wicher gave a progress report on the project from 72,000 images completed. FGS is raising the the $3.7 million dollars to make these images available online for free.) Images are already coming online on the NARA website.

(I’m ‘bout out of time, so pretend I adequately reported what he said about other aspects of the National Archives: the genealogy portal on, 11 blogs, Facebook pages, Family Tree Friday blog posts, Wikipedia [where a photograph that gets 1,000 views on the NARA website gets 12,000,000 on Wikipedia], GLAM, OPA, ERA, and the 1940 census. I guess it isn’t just FamilySearch harping on the 1940 census.)

Flush from the excitement of discovering the Boston—not New York—immigration of his family, Ferriero wanted to share the discovery with someone. His uncle was still alive and living in Florida, so he called him.

“He could not have cared less,” said Ferriero. The audience howled with laughter. Yup; he was one of us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Will You Survive?

David E Rencer, FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer “How will your society survive?” asked David Rencher at the opening session of the Federation of Genealogical Society’s (FGS) annual conference. The first day of the conference is focused for society officers and Rencher’s remarks were squarely aimed at them. Rencher is Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch International and a member of the FGS board.

Rencher said that on this, the 35th anniversary of the founding of FGS, one third of the original 35 charter societies are out of business.

“I believe in my heart of hearts your society can succeed,” he said. “What should you do? What should you change?” Concentrate on the fundamentals. “Get back to the purpose for which you were created,” he said. And don’t forget, “if it isn’t fun, why are we doing it?”

“You have data locally,” he said. “You have data that the large companies will never have.” You have local knowledge and expertise. For example, while Rencher was researching his family in Mount Calm, Hill County, Texas, a local informed him that when the railroad came through, the town picked up and moved north out of Limestone county and into Hill county. “Do you think that changed where I went to look for records” he asked hypothetically.

“For your society to succeed, I contend that your society must have a business model,” he told attendees. “The goal should be, drive your costs to zero.” Think through your cost structure. Replace costs with free services and volunteers. “What is your society’s magnet for community participation?” said Rencher. A projects like indexing the 1940 census can appeal to volunteers. (Rencher said it will be really depressing should you index yourself in the 1940 census. But I digress…)

“Embrace change and make dramatic changes on the way you do things,” he said. “Do you really have to charge membership dues?” asked Rencher. “I know you’re thinking, ‘Has this man lost his mind?’” Do more things online. Appeal to distance members—those who don’t live locally, but have ancestors that did. Utilize social media and webinars.

Following the session I overheard society officers discussing changes for their society, real changes. One suggested changing their secretary to an online communication specialist. Another was going to check the costs of Skype.

I thought to myself, “David, you’re right. Genealogical societies will survive.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

FGS Begins Today and I’m Already Behind

2011 FGS Conference: Pathways to the HeartlandThe 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies gets underway in Springfield, Illinois today and I’m already behind. FamilySearch met with bloggers yesterday evening and in the course of a few minutes made several significant announcements.

Field Express

Jake Gehring explained a process that FamilySearch internally calls “Field Express.” Through this process, images of records photographed in the field will be published online within two weeks. I thought this was the most significant announcement of the evening. I’ll write more extensively about it in a separate article.

1940 U.S. Census

Jim Erickson spent several minutes “not [making] a big announcement” about a 1940 census initiative. He told us to look for an announcement in the future. He did say that genealogical societies (this is the FGS conference, after all) could make a significant contribution to indexing it quickly.

BYU Family History Archive

Gehring announced the release of a beta test of the FamilySearch historical book collection. A project has been underway for 18 months to move the BYU Family History Archive to A limited number of books is being tested on FamilySearch Labs at Once released, all books will be added, including some not available on the BYU host.

The collection has overwhelmed the BYU Library servers currently hosting it. As of this morning the collection consists of 17,777 public domain family history related books scanned by FamilySearch personnel (mostly volunteer missionaries). The books come from the Family History Library, the Allen County Public Library, the Houston Public Library, the Mid-Continent Public Library, various BYU libraries, and the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Submit Your Tree

While I was out at Labs, I noticed another beta project: Submit Your Tree. How long has that been out there? According to the website, “Submit Your Tree is an easy way to upload a GEDCOM file and compare it to millions of records that are already in” I’ll take another look at this when I get the time.

But I digress. This was not an FGS announcement.

New Collections

What was an FGS announcement was David Rencher’s comments about FamilySearch Civil War resources available at . (That’s the poorly designed page I mentioned during the NGS Conference. The design still stinks. But I digress…) Rencher pointed to new additions made since NGS: Civil War Pension Index Cards, Headstones of Union Veterans (Rencher said we’re in Yankee country, or he would have insisted on Confederate headstones), Provost Marshall Files, and Widows Claims.

New collections for the conference include:

  • 1865 Illinois State Census
  • Illinois Naturalizations
  • Indiana Marriages
  • Iowa Births
  • Kansas Marriages
  • Kentucky Probates
  • Atlantic and Gulf Port Index to Passenger Arrivals

Stay tuned so you can see me get further and further behind.

FamilySearch Vault Express

Introducing Field ExpressIn a briefing for bloggers, FamilySearch’s Jake Gehring explained “Field Express.” Field Express is a new process they have developed to get records quickly onto the Internet. In the past, it took a considerable amount of time for records to make it from a microfilm camera inside a record archive and onto the Internet. Today, Field Express can do it in four weeks. The goal is to shorten that to two.

Gehring said that Field Express aims to “push images to the web directly from the field with minimal handling after image capture.” FamilySearch’s worldwide camera operations produce many more images than volunteer indexers can keep up with. Rather than allow the buildup of a backlog of unindexed images, Field Express utilizes metadata (basic information about the data, such as volume numbers) gathered in the field. The metadata is used to produce a rudimentary browse structure that gives access to groups of the images. While the resulting records are not nearly as assessable as indexed records, FamilySearch feels that motivated researchers would rather have images without indexes than no images at all.

To date, 148 projects have used Field Express. Most of FamilySearch’s 201 cameras are digital. (A few microfilm cameras are still in use for specific projects.) Of the digital cameras, 175 are currently capable of using Field Express. This is expected to increase to 100% of the digital cameras by the end of the year.

In 2010 FamilySearch published over 1 million images from field express. So far in 2011, they have published almost 10 and their goal is to publish 21 million by the end of the year. They’re setting their sights on almost doubling that for 2012.

Gehring showed a map illustrating just how extensive FamilySearch’s camera projects are worldwide. (We were told we could get a copy of this today or tomorrow. I’ll share a legible copy at that time.)

FamilySearch cameras worldwide

I’d have liked to write up Gehring’s presentation more completely. Consider this my own version of Field Express.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Additional Census Images Come to

A 1930 U.S. Census ImageWithout fanfare recently released images for the 1910 and 1920 censuses.

Access to the new images is restricted to active FamilySearch indexers and members of FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For subscribers, links are available to the images on the website. (Can somebody check and see if the images are available inside family history centers?)

To see either the images or the links, you must first login.

Available indexes and images are:


Index available on

Image availability on
1850 X Free for everyone.
1860 X For a fee on Fold3.
1870 X Free for everyone.
1880 X  
1900 X Free for everyone.
1910 X Free for some.
Or for a fee on
1920 X Free for some.
Or for a fee on
1930 X  

I wonder why images are not available for 1880 and 1930. You’d think they would either be available for free or via links to a fee site. (Private note to FamilySearch: Can you let me know the reason?)

Fanfare or not, I’ll take what I can get.