Friday, June 29, 2012

Five Million Records Would be a Record

FamilySearch IndexingFamilySearch announced last Saturday its challenge that the community set a new record for records indexed in one day. The old record sits at 4.9 million records indexed on 30 April 2012. The goal is to index 5 million records between 6 pm MDT Sunday, and 6 pm MDT Monday. (For you techies, that’s midnight to midnight, July 2nd, Greenwich Mean Time.)

If you are a Facebook user, check the event page for more information.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Census Indexing Horse Race Update for 27 June 2012

Perhaps horses are the wrong metaphor for the census indexing race. Not even marathons take this long. Yet another week has passed and there is no change from racers or MyHeritage. Even the juggernaut FamilySearch coalition is taking months to complete the race.

Nonetheless, this week the coalition hit several major milestones:

They finished California! It was the 5th largest state in the union in 1940. Only New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio were bigger. California is the largest published state to date.

Also published in the last week: Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Washington. The status map is filling in quite nicely.

FamilySearch Indexing status map for 27 June 2012

FamilySearch seems to have worked through the backlog of states done but not published. Only Rhode Island sits unpublished at 100%. Minnesota hit 100% briefly before dropping back to 99.

There’s more good news. After a brief turndown last week, indexing rates are back up over 30,000 pages per day.

You know what would be cool about now? Doing a new one-day indexing push. The Super-Bowl Super-Indexing Day was a lot of fun. I’ll bet now we could blow through those old numbers?

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Classic Family History Library Catalog is Preferred

imageWhile contains a new catalog, FamilySearch continues to prefer users use the classic catalog. The catalog page states that “[the new] FamilySearch Catalog is in BETA. You can still visit the previous version.”

While it can be hard to see, the words “previous version” are hot-linked to the classic catalog.

This is the only working URL to the classic website of which I am aware and it is not very visible. To get to the old, preferred catalog, bookmark this link or add it to your favorites:

Even though no longer works, I have found several catalog links still work. The ones I use the most are:

One nice thing about these URLs is they all contain “fhlc”. Once I have visited these URLs, my browser remembers them. When I start typing “fhlc” into the address bar, the browser lists one or more of these links, for easy clicking.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

FamilySearch Indexing App Q and A

Mobile App ScreenshotI recently wrote about the FamilySearch mobile Indexing app. (See “The Betaness of FamilySearch iPad Indexing.”) FamilySearch must have been listening because almost simultaneously a post appeared on the FamilySearch blog. It addresses the questions raised in my review. (My ego would like to take credit, but a close inspection shows the FamilySearch post appeared several hours before mine.)

The app uses a different quality model than regular indexing. Regular indexing uses two indexers and an arbitrator to insure high quality. With the mobile app, the same snippet is sent out multiple times until a minimum of 3 of 4 indexers provide the same answer.

According to the post, snippets come from both new projects and already published projects. The already published projects are used as a control group to measure accuracy.

In answering the question as to whether the work will actually be published, the FamilySearch answer was “eventually.” It will “be added to increase the searchable database.” I don’t know if that means it won’t be independently published or not.

I wondered if the app was a dead project. No. “FamilySearch will be working to enhance the user experience of the app as well as to add more features.”

To see the full article, go to “The Mobile App-Unwrapped.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Classic FamilySearch is No More

Without fanfare last Monday FamilySearch turned off the home page of its website, redirecting traffic to the current home page. (The old catalog remains available, however.)

Some users are not pleased with the retirement. Elaine Lee said, “Please can you tell me WHY you have RUINED a perfectly good website. I have used this website for 12 years and now find it so confusing.”

First released to the public in May 1999, the site was an instant success. The traffic load in the first few days was overwhelming and crashed the website. as it appeared May 1999, May 1999

For many years, site navigation was enabled via four color-coded menu pages; the home page was green. as it appeared June 2001, June 2001

In later years, a search form was added to the home page and color coding was eliminating. This home page design continued until it was shut down Monday. 2009-01-14 - First time without background tree on right
The original as it appeared in its final years

In December 2010, this original website became (See “ Replaces”) It was replaced with the current (not to be confused with, which will be replaced by FamilySearch Family Tree).

The original site was characterized by a search experience still favored by many individuals. The search strategy was simple: enter an individual’s name. If too many results were returned, add another piece of information to the search. Repeat until the result set was reasonably sized.

Back in February, FamilySearch gave users an opportunity to express their feelings about retiring the original site. Rochelle Edwards said, “Very disappointed to learn I can no longer access the old site. It was so much easier than the newer version (which I find extremely difficult) and can no longer find things which I could so easily find on the old site.”

I call the old site’s search paradigm “exact search.” Not all users found it intuitive. Beginners often entered both birth and marriage information, precluding results of both types. The current site implements a new search paradigm. Some users like it and some don’t.

Mike Fisher said, “Forget about the old site. The new site allows much better user defined search parameters. I find what I want, not what the old site allowed me to see. Plus the bonus of no patron submissions.”


What do you think? Was the old/classic/original site better, or is the current site?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Serendipity in Embroidery

It is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidence. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracle. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

According to the 1830 census of Bainbridge, Chenango, New York, Ann Rogers had two young daughters.1

Ann Rogers in the 1830 Census

Susan M. Lemmon knew one was her great-grandmother, Hortense Rogers. After many years of searching, neither she nor her mother had learned the name of the other daughter. Ann Rogers was the widow of Henry Rogers who died leaving Ann to care for the two young children.2

Lemmon’s mother searched for many years before her passing in 2002. Lemmon then carried on the search. In 2009 she came across a message board post made back in 2000 asking for more information about Hortense. Lemmon posted her willingness to share what she knew.3

That post, perhaps even her willingness to share, triggered the serendipity.

A genealogist—Sean Dixon I assume—came across an interesting sampler, a piece of needlework, in the Consignment Gallery of Portland Oregon. The Gallery specializes in quality home furnishings “from colorful Quimper pottery, Italian contemporary furniture, to stately antiques.”4

“I thought this was a little treasure that needed to find its way home,” said Dixon on her blog.5 “I find things like photos, Bibles, and needlework in antique shops and consignment stores. I reunite them with their families.”6 Dixon started looking for a descendent.7

“This woman found the inquiry I had left years ago and contacted me,” said Lemmon. “With the information she provided I was able to purchase the framed embroidery.”

imageThe sampler contained a wealth of information. Not only did it identify the unnamed sister—Helen—it revealed the existence of a third child, Byron. “There was no previous knowledge that Byron even existed,” said Lemmon, “because he had died at 15 months of age.”

Several things had to happen before Susan Lemmon could learn about her great-grandmother’s siblings. Nine year old Helen had to create the sampler. It had to survive to the present. It had to make its way to Oregon and go on sale near the home of Sean Dixon. Dixon had to come across it and selflessly work to find a descendent. And Lemmon had to make herself findable by making a gracious offer to help others.

That is serendipity in genealogy.


     1. "United States Census, 1830," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 June 2012), Ann Rogers, Bainbridge, Chenango, New York; citing NARA microfilm publication M19, roll number 86.

     2. Susan M. Lemmon, “Family History Moments: Handwork History,” LDS Church News, 17 June 2012, 16.

     3. Sue Lemmon, “Re: Hortense (Rogers) Hartwell,” message board post, GenForum, Presented by ( : posted 16 February 2009).

     4. Consignment Gallery : Portland Oregon ( : accessed 17 June 2012).

     5. [Sean Dixon,] “Wrought by Helen Rogers 1834,” Ancestorism: Close Encounters of the Genealogical Kind ( : posted 30 March 2012). The detail from the photograph of the needlework is from this article. Click on the link to see the entire sampler.

     6. “About,” Ancestorism: Close Encounters of the Genealogical Kind ( : accessed 17 June 2011).

     7. s_e_dixon (username), “Old Needlework by Helen Rogers 1834, Daughter of Henry Rogers and Ann Slade,” message board post, Message Boards ( : posted 19 September 2011).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Census Indexing Horse Race Update for 20 June 2012

FamilySearch indexing status map for 20 June 2012Two weeks have passed since my last update. and MyHeritage have not released any more states.

In that two weeks FamilySearch has released: Alabama, Indiana, Maine, North and South Dakota, and Oklahoma (Okay). Twenty-four states have been published, comprising 21% of the work.

During that time indexing was completed for these states: California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington (for the 2nd time). Thirty-one states have been indexed. Add in partial states and we have hit two-thirds done.

However, not all is positive. According to my (the Ancestry Insider’s) measurements, the indexing rate has fallen. My numbers say that indexers were indexing about 33,000 pages per day up through my last update. In the past week, that figure has dropped to 29,000 pages per day.

I don’t think anyone is surprised and I don’t think anyone is concerned. This drop in the summer months is normal and expected.

Will this slowdown allow the other horses to gain any ground on the FamilySearch consortium? Stay tuned…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Attaching Records to Trees: and FamilySearch

Attaching records to trees is now a reality for both users of Member Trees and users of FamilySearch Family Tree. (Unfortunately, access to the Family Tree is not yet available to the general public.) users have long had the ability to attach records. At its simplest, click on Save and select Attach to the individual. This simple scenario occurs when you start your search in your tree.

Albert Einstein page in an Ancestry Member Tree

Then when you click Save, you can attach directly to the searched-for individual.

Attach a record to an Ancestry Member Tree


FamilySearch only recently added the ability to attach records to the Family Tree. Attaching is a two step process. First save the record to your Source Box as explained in my last article. Second attach the source to a person. To do this, switch to the target Person page, click Add a New Source, and click the Attach next to the target record.

Attach a record to FamilySearch Family Tree

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

FamilySearch Source Box and Shoebox

FamilySearch recently released Source Box, their version of the Shoebox. This feature lets users bookmark records to make it easy to return to them later.

When viewing a record on Ancestry, click on Save and select Save to My Shoebox.

Click Save and Save to My Shoebox on

I know of only two ways to access My Shoebox. Shoebox access can be included on your configurable home page. Once logged in, scroll down until you see the section labeled “My Shoebox.” (If it isn’t there, you may need to reconfigure your home page.) It shows the three most recent records and includes a link to “See all shoebox items.”

Shoebox access is also available when viewing a record. Click on the link provided.

Shoebox contents come in two, separately stored varieties:

1. Saved Records
2. Downloaded and Printed Records.

Downloaded and printed records are stored automatically.


When viewing a record on FamilySearch, click on My Source Box and then on Add to My Source Box. (Login if you haven’t already.)


My Source Box access is available when viewing a record. Click on My Source Box and then on Go to My Source Box.


Bookmarks—“sources,” in FamilySearch parlance—can be organized into folders. New sources can be created that bookmark any page on the Internet.

while the titles of the sources look like web links, they are not. Clicking opens up information about the source: name, URL, citation, and note. Click on the URL to link to the web page.

Next time I’ll compare linking a record to someone in your tree. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Surreal Southern California Genealogy Jamboree

CHIPS AHOY! & RITZ Present American Idol LIVE! Tour 2012Surreal. That’s the word that describes my experience at the 2012 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this past weekend.

Picture this. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Burbank Marriott and I think I see American Idol’s DeAndre Brackensick sauntering by wearing a genealogy t-shirt. Surreal.

Mind you, the conference itself was great. Paula Hinkel and team did a great job. Among other activities, I was a panel member for Thomas MacEntee’s “Blogger Summit Panel No. 2: From Blog Reader to Writer - Why and How.” Other panel members were Denise Levenick of the Family Curator blog, Melissa Shimkus of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center blog, and Elyse Doerflinger of Elyse’s Genealogy Blog: On a Journey to Find My Roots. Panelists were universal in their counsel to those contemplating starting a blog: just do it.

I admitted to audience members that writing a blog is intimidating. I know that on any particular subject many of my readers know more about my subject than I do. Thank you, then, to all of you kind people who said hello. It continues to strike me that anyone would take notice of me.

What, then, was surreal? For one thing, attendees were required to wear wrist bands. The last time I wore a wrist band was when I had floor tickets to a Billy Joel and Elton John concert. “Rock concert” and “genealogy conference” don’t exactly conjure the same images.

Also surreal was the dozens of gorgeous young people walking around the hotel standing in stark contrast to us conference attendees. The hotel was so crowded, some conference attendees were “bumped” to another hotel. Rumors identified this group as contestants for the television show, the Voice, or something similar for young singing talent. I asked one what was going on. He said simply, “music camp.”

Adding to the surreal experience, these weren’t the only singers around. The top ten contestants for American Idol were staying at the hotel, prepping for their 2012 American Idol Live tour. MyHeritage’s Mark Olsen was brave enough to talk to them. (See “Jamboree: Lights, Camera, Action, Idols!”) Soon Olsen and coworkers Daniel Horowitz and Schelly Talalay Dardashti had DeAndre and his mother on the tradeshow floor, interested in genealogy, and wearing a genealogy t-shirt.

The climatic surrealistic moment came on a full elevator, an American Idol star amongst us old geezers. There was a sudden moment of recognition. “Hey, I know you… You’re the Ancestry Insider.”


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Census Indexing Horse Race Update for 6 June 2012

FamilySearch indexing status map for 6 June 2012Today we got a clearer picture on how the 1940 U.S. Census index publication horse race might play out. It might not be what you expected. announced earlier this week that they had completed an index for the state of New York. New York was the largest state in 1940, containing about a tenth of the country’s population. That was enough to boost Ancestry’s completion percentage to 11.19%, propelling their horse ahead of where the FamilySearch horse was at the time of my last update.

However, in that nine day period FamilySearch released Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana, pushing their publication horse to 13%.

While the Ancestry horse was not able to pass the FamilySearch horse, it is running much closer than people have perceived. We might just have ourselves a horse race.

Ancestry’s completion of New York is also a basis for comparison against the MyHeritage horse. Apparently both organizations were indexing New York at the same time. Obviously, Ancestry’s horse beat the MyHeritage horse to that important milestone. MyHeritage remains at 0.82%.

Along with their announcement of the publication of an index for New York state, Ancestry announced the release of other New York state databases and a special deal for New York state residents. For more information, visit .

The Betaness of FamilySearch iPad Indexing

Last time I gave a brief introduction to FamilySearch’s iPad indexing app. Today let me talk about the unfinished edges. This is a beta app and the betaness is visible along all the edges.

The first detail that I noticed was the background, or lack thereof. In stark contrast to the luxurious background used by the Ancestry app, FamilySearch Indexing for iPad uses a solid, off-white background.

The main FamilySearch iPad indexing screen has a snippet to index

When first I signed into the app I was given some instructions on indexing names. I imagine I would get different instructions if I were handed dates to index. When I went back to consult those instructions, they were nowhere to be found.

Location of the snippet is not marked in the whole document view. And it is not possible to enter the name while in document view, as one needs to if ditto marks are present in the snippet.

The FamilySearch iPad indexing app can show the entire document

The worst part of the experience for me was the names I was given to index. I requested easy stuff, but what I got was beyond challenging. As can be seen in the history screen below, virtually every name was illegible. Some were marked through with thick lines. Some looked like the 3rd carbon copy of a typewriter. Others looked like they had been compressed too much, perhaps even multiple times. Some were too light to read. The couple I could barely read were from a European language that made me cry, “Vanna! I want to buy a vowel!”

The FamilySearch iPad indexing app can show a history of recent snippets

I have a feeling I was getting all the names rejected by previous indexers. To be viable, the app needs a way of marking snippets as illegible. And when an image is skipped by an Easy indexer, don’t send it to the next Easy indexer, escalate it to a moderate indexer and then to an expert.

The app needs a way for indexers to pick batches by geographic area. I’ve spoken before about the role of context in indexing. I choose from among available projects locations for which I am most familiar with the place and people names.

Among those leaving comments online, registration and login are issues. Apparently, the grading system also does not work, as several users complained that the matched consensus count never increases above zero. Users also complained that the app doesn’t support landscape mode, although that bug seems to have been fixed in version 1.1, released 14 May 2012.

The app description says it all. “This app is in its early stages of development.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FamilySearch Indexing on iPad

The thought of doing FamilySearch indexing on an iPad is intriguing. How convenient would it be to take a couple of moments here and a couple there to accomplish something worthwhile while waiting for the popcorn in the microwave.

The reality is, as of yet, unfulfilling. In all fairness the app is identified as a beta. It earns that moniker in many regards. But before I get into the problems, let me first run down the basic operation.

The paradigm is simple enough. You are given a small snippet of a document. Enter what you see.

The main FamilySearch iPad indexing screen has a snippet to index

Long-time indexers know that to decipher handwriting one commonly needs to see the entire document. To view the document, touch the document icon above the snippet.

The FamilySearch iPad indexing app can show the entire document

In compliance with iPad design philosophy the interface is simple and intuitive. Along the bottom are five choices: indexing, history, guide, stats, and settings. History shows recently indexed snippets.

The FamilySearch iPad indexing app can show a history of recent snippets

Next time I’ll talk about the betaness of FamilySearch iPad Indexing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

War of 1812 Records Free During June

imageTo commemorate the 200th anniversary of the commencement of the war, Fold3 has made all of its War of 1812 records free to the public during the month of June. To be clear, the majority of these records are always free and the databases are incomplete.

According to spokesperson, Matthew Deighton, “the collection consists of more than 400,000 images including 235,000 images from the War of 1812 Pension Files never before available online.”

The free databases are

The pension files database is always free because it is a joint project between Fold3 and the Federation of Genealogical Societies. FGS is soliciting contributions to digitize these records. More information can be found on these web pages:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Where’s the Ancestry Insider? Burbank Edition

Where's the Ancestry Insider?Forget about Waldo. Forget about Carmen San Diego. Where is the Ancestry Insider?

Come next weekend, June 8th through the 10th, I’ll be in Burbank at the 43rd Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. I am honored to again speak on a blogger panel Saturday afternoon.

Come and say hello.

I have a good friend at FamilySearch who has adapted my genealogical maturity model into a series of lectures called “Baby Steps.” His two sessions are on Friday and Saturday. I’m especially interested to see “Baby Steps with Evidence Analysis.”

Walk in registration is available starting at noon on Friday. Come for all three days, or a single day. The conference is held at Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank, California.

For more information, visit