Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Persistent Partnership/Ownership Questions

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Shirley R posted this comment on the Ancestry Insider website:

Will this transferring to mean that they will have access to all and then CHARGE people to view the information? That is why I quit putting info into Family Search because it happened with another site that I had entered information. I never plan to PAY for what was freely given.

T responded with this comment,

I didn't know familysearch was incorporated with When did that happen?

Dear T, What do you mean by “incorporated?”

A recurring misunderstanding in the genealogy community is the mistaken belief that owns FamilySearch. That is not the case.

Perhaps you are worried about the partnership between the two. Let me address that in a moment. First, let me talk about ownership. Acquisitions have made it challenging to remember who owns whom at any given moment. has acquired,, iArchives and its property (formerly, We’re Related,,, 1000 Memories, and most recently, was a powerhouse in its day and through it inherited Banner Blue’s Family Tree Maker, World Family Tree,, and Automated Archives’s Family Archive CD library. also owns and websites.

Strategic partnerships further muddle the waters.

In August 2008 established a strategic partnership with JewishGen. now owns and operates the servers that host In exchange, gets to publish many JewishGen databases. Those are available for free on with its powerful search technology. If has acquired enough of their content, why acquire them?

In September 2013 established a strategic partnership with FamilySearch. (See “ Announces Extensive Partnership with FamilySearch” and “More Information on Agreement.”) gets to publish many FamilySearch databases. In exchange, FamilySearch gets the privilege of collaborating with on several projects. If has acquired enough of their content, why acquire them?

Dear Shirley,

What do you mean by transferred? Information is being shared, not moved. FamilySearch has repeatedly reiterated that the content given to will continue to be available and free on

I don’t think either party has disclosed whether all FamilySearch information will be given to Given that some FamilySearch record collections are available only to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think it is safe to say that not all FamilySearch collections will be transferred to

I don’t think they have disclosed whether or not user-contributed content will be shared, although the FamilySearch terms and conditions allow it.

They haven’t disclosed whether will charge for the information, although in the past I’ve pointed out databases from FamilySearch that does charge for.

I’m curious about the collaborative projects. and FamilySearch collaborated on the U.S. censuses. Now for some censuses users must pay for access to images, even though FamilySearch created the images and FamilySearch volunteers helped create the indexes. I hope they won’t be doing any of those kinds of projects!

Let me talk about two other organizations.

MyHeritage owns,,, and FamilySearch and MyHeritage announced a strategic partnership back in October 2013. (See “MyHeritage Announces Partnership With FamilySearch.”)

FamilySearch and DC Thomson Family History (formerly brightSolid) announced a strategic partnership that same month. (See “FamilySearch/FindMyPast Announce Agreement.”) DC Thomson Family History owns,,,,,,,, British Newspaper Archive,, Friends Reunited, and Genes Reunited. For information, see “FGS: Chris van der Kuyl, CEO, brightsolid.”

--The Ancestry Insider

Saturday, December 28, 2013 Free Saturday and Sunday

Free Access to Ancestry.comIn a campaign to highlight new collections added in 2013, is offering free access to select collections today and tomorrow. Free access ends 29 December 2013 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time.

Access to the collections requires a free account which can be obtained without providing credit card information. You will receive promotional email, which you can subsequently opt out of.

The selected collections are:

U.S. Vital Records
U.S. Censuses
U.S. Military Records
U.S. Immigration Records
Other U.S. Collections
UK Records
Canadian Records
Other International Records

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Darned Census Holiday Greeting

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: Census Holiday Greeting

Just in time for the holidays a coworker pointed out to me a household in New York City (36-38 West 123rd Street) where, among other inhabitants, lived

  • Faithful Sarah
  • Wrestling Jacob
  • Rebecca Love
  • Promised Land Goal
  • Victory O’Isreal [sic]
  • Patriarch Job
  • Merry Heart David
  • St. Luke
  • Virgin Mary
  • Sweet Childs
  • Holy Lamb
  • Heavenly Love
  • Eternal Light
  • Evening Star
  • Bright Light
  • Angel Light
  • Happy Angel
  • Rejoice Evermore
  • Living Peace
  • Wonderful Peace
  • Charity Joy
  • Simon Peter
  • Mary Magdalene
  • Martha Kindness
  • Matthew Resurrection
  • Victorious Souls
  • Beautiful Rest

And lastly, my wish to you: “Merry Love” and “Peace Joy.”

Thank you, Thomas, for sharing.

Click to listen to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by The Piano Guys
Click to listen to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by The Piano Guys.



Source: "United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Dec 2013), New York > New York > New York City, Manhattan, Assembly District 19 > [Enumeration District] 31-1707B…, Images 33-7 of 38; household 338, sheets 81A-83A, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 2665.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Attach Photo or Document to FamilySearch Source

A quality image of an original source has virtually the same evidentiary value as the original and avoids transcription errors so prevalent in derivative sources.

Last week FamilySearch added the ability to attach a photo or document image to a FamilySearch Family Tree source. Use the usual method to create a source. On the person’s page scroll down to the Sources section and click Create a New Source.

Click Create a New Source

The Create a Source page has a new choice for the link to the record. An alternative to “Web Page URL” is “Attach Photo or Document.”

The Create a Source page

Selecting this new choice replaces the text box with the Attach File button.

Select a web page url or attach a photo or document

Click the button to see thumbnails of all your photos and documents. Select one or click the Upload button for a new photo or document.

Attach to Source page

You’re almost finished. You’ve gone to all the trouble of scanning and attaching an image of a source. To preserve its evidentiary value, don’t forget to specify a citation! Sadly, altered images of sources exist (think of the four or five different certificates of President Obama’s birth). Even if you obtained the image second hand, specify where you got it from.

Your sources are the only hope we have of cleaning up FamilySearch Family Tree. Get going!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Serendipity in the Riverside Courthouse

Riverside County, California, unfiled collection of certificates with unknown birthdates, death certificate no. 232, Fidel Ayala, 23 May 1920, Clerk's Office, Riverside.Michael Gonzales shared with me this story of serendipity:

About 25 years ago I took a trip to California from my home in Texas to visit my mother, Minnie Ayala Gonzales.  She told me that her brother, Fidel Ayala, died in Riverside, Riverside County, California in about 1920 at the age of 8.  My mother remembered his death and was sure it was recorded in the Riverside County courthouse.  On a Friday we drove from Los Angeles to Riverside and got there on about 2:00 PM with plenty of time to request and obtain the death certificate.  We requested the record and waited for the customary time only to have the clerk tell us that there was no record of his death in Riverside County. 

We were surprised and further questioned why there should be no record of his death since my mother and her parents were present at his death.  The clerk insisted that there was no record of his death and was very sorry that she could not produce a record since there was none recorded in that courthouse.  This caused us great consternation as we didn't have much time before the office would be closed for the weekend.  It was made more worrisome in that my visit with my mother was to end on Monday when I would return home by air with this issue unresolved. 

Just almost at closing time an elderly gentleman came out from the rear of the office and said he couldn't help but overhear our concern.  He said that he recalled some years back that they had a problem with a group of records that didn't get filed and asked us to wait until he had a look.  He came back with a document in his hand and asked if that were the record we sought.  It was my uncle Fidel's death record!

He explained that Fidel's record and a number of others were stacked on top of a file cabinet in the back room of the office, unfiled because they hadn't determined how they were to be filed when the date of birth of the deceased was unknown.  Uncle Fidel's record showed that he was "about 8 years of age" at the time of his death but lacked his exact date of birth.  We are truly grateful that the old gentleman stepped forward with his corporate knowledge to clear up this dilemma.

If you visit or write to a enough archives, the day will come when you’ll be told a record doesn’t exist that you’re pretty darn sure actually does. A clerk’s time is valuable and they usually have more pressing things to do (like the time I visited a Town clerk’s office in New England on the day before an election). They do their best to make a cursory search, but you can’t expect them to make extraordinary efforts. It was truly serendipitous that the old gentleman was present in the clerk’s office that day, that he overheard Michael’s plight, that he carried the necessary institutional memory, that he was willing to stop what he was doing to help, and that he was able to find the record in an unorganized pile.

That is what we call, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

Thank you, Michael, for sharing.

          Michael Gonzales ([email address withheld for privacy]) to the Ancestry Insider (, email, “Serendipity in the Riverside Courthouse,” 15 September 2013, privately held by the Ancestry Insider.
          Riverside County, California, unfiled collection of certificates with unknown birthdates, death certificate no. 232, Fidel Ayala, 23 May 1920, Clerk's Office, Riverside.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New FamilySearch Now Read Only

Yesterday New FamilySearch (NFS) was switched to read-only mode. That doesn’t mean that no changes will occur to the NFS information. It only means that no changes can be made using the NFS website. The NFS database will continue to be synchronized with the FamilySearch Family Tree database. Changes made in Family Tree will be reflected in NFS. Visitors to NFS were greeted with this message:

Starting 18 December 2013, NFS is read-only

Those that login to NFS will see a simplified interface. The only remaining options are “Me and My Ancestors” and “Search.”


Edit links have been removed, as well as temple options. This forces members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to switch to Family Tree.

Because the two databases are still being synchronized, IOUSes will still not be combinable in Family Tree. I don’t recall if FamilySearch has given a date for turning off the synchronization between the two trees. Has anyone heard anything? Whatever you’ve heard, my sense is that we will continue to live with that limitation for a long, long, long time.


It was my intent to write about another feature of Family Tree, but Wednesday night as I attempted to do so, the FamilySearch website was malfunctioning. I’d had other problems earlier in the day. I had seen server errors and website timeouts off and on the entire day.

I wondered if it was just me so I tried the website. Enter the name of a website and the “Down For Everyone or Just Me” website will check it for you. If the website (in this case, is down for everyone, it will tell you so. It was.

Wednesday night, when viewing the list of persons tagged in a document, the links to Family Tree wouldn’t function. I switched browsers from Firefox to Chrome and Internet Explorer. In these browsers, the errant links were completely missing, as were the red exclamation points indicating non-linked persons.

In Firefox, links to Family Tree were inoperable.  In Internet Explorer and Chrome, the Family Tree links were non-existent.
In Firefox (left), links to Family Tree were non-functional. In Internet Explorer (right) and Chrome, the links were non-existent. works most of the time. But I’ve had problems at least once a day this week. More weeks than not I have at least one problem and often more.

I better erase the next paragraph. It’s late and I’m frustrated. (Don’t worry; there were no swear words.)

I try .. .. … …. …….. and ……….. … …, but …. …. … …... …… … .. …..

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Insider Speaking at RootsTech 2014

The Ancestry Insider is speaking at RootsTech 2014I am happy to announce that I will be speaking at RootsTech 2014. I am teaching “Do It Yourself Photo Restoration.” I’ll present the topic once in a regular session and twice in hands-on labs. My syllabus is 39 pages long! (it has lots of photos, as you might expect.) I was nervous about the length, but I asked and an unsigned reply said it was OK. That’s a lot of translating for 10 languages! I appreciate RootsTech’s investment.

Restore that photograph to its initial splendor. Repair colorcast. Restore tonal range. Eliminate blemishes. Get the most from your scanner. We’ll be using free software, since many people don’t own PhotoShop. But the principles are universal.

Someone pointed out that I’m three of the eight sessions in the Photos category. There are

  • 39 sessions in the Find category,
  • 39 in General,
  • 15 in Organize,
  • 8 in Photos,
  • 12 in Preserve,
  • 27 in Share,
  • 21 in Stories,
  • 39 in technology,
  • 14 in Business, and
  • 12 for software developers.

Theoretically, that adds up to 238 sessions. Slicing the sessions by audience (and perhaps registration type), there are

  • 119 general sessions,
  • 25 getting started,
  • 24 computer labs,
  • 27 innovator,
  • 19 LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints),
  • 12 youth, and
  • 12 unconferencing.

Within their respective category and audience types, there are

  • 165 beginner sessions,
  • 172 intermediate, and
  • 139 advanced.

That adds to more than 238 because some sessions are counted in multiple skill levels.

The idea behind “Unconferencing” sessions is that the session attendees do the presenting. You may have a moderator or organizer, but attendees do all the talking.

I’ve wondered how much RootsTech has caught on among advanced genealogists. Most don’t have the means to attend NGS, FGS, and RootsTech. Is there enough draw for them to divert money from the established conferences? I filtered the sessions by Advanced, and was pleased to see sessions by Pamela Weisberger, Laura Prescott, Judy Russell, Curt Witcher, and Elissa Scalise Powell. I should not have gone down the path of mentioning specific names because there are plenty of nationally recognized experts whose names I don’t recognize (early-onset dementia). My apologies to the rest of you. But you don’t have to trust my recall abilities. You can see the sessions yourself at

I look forward to my presentation and hope to see you there, if not in my session, then somewhere at RootsTech 2014.

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech 2014 blogger

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Listing FamilySearch Indexed Collections

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Does FS ever publish a list of what it has indexed on its site?

El Californio *

Dear El Californio,

Yes, although it is a little bit hidden.

1. Go to
2. Click on Search.
3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.
4. Click on Browse All Published Collections.

This brings you to a list of all the collections, including those with indexes. Those without indexes are labeled “Browse Images.” You can fine tune this list in a couple of ways. Use the Filter box on the left; type in the name of a country or state. To separate the indexed collections from the Browse-only collections, click the column header, Records. This sorts the collections according to the number of records, with the largest collections at the top.

There is a lag between when a collection is indexed and when it is published. I don’t know how long that is. Someone told me that if a project takes longer than 10 months, FamilySearch will go ahead and publish as much as has been completed. Have any of you noticed how long it has taken on a collection you have indexed?

Just because a collection is not indexed, don’t ignore it. Indexers are not able to keep up with FamilySearch’s acquisition of new records (and publication of vault microfilms), so there are plenty of valuable collections waiting for you to discover. Just because FamilySearch hasn’t indexed the collection, doesn’t mean the original clerk didn’t. Open up the collection and browse into the records. You often find photographs of an index that will give you the page number you need to find a record. Page numbers and image numbers don’t match however, so it takes a little bit of trial and error to find the page. See “Browsing an Image-Only Collection” for instructions.

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, December 13, 2013

Serendipity on eBay

Dee Grimsrud found her grandmother's scrapbook and her uncle's baby bookIt’s a good idea to post a watch on eBay on your surname. When a matching item comes up for auction, you receive notification by email. You never know when a family Bible or something else of value might show up. Fortunately for Dee Grimsrud, she did just that.

The passing of an older generation is poignant, perhaps even more so for a genealogist, since we are so focused on our ancestors and their memories. Dee lost her mother in 2007. Her grandparents had passed back in the ‘60s. One of two uncles died back in World War II. That leaves her with just one uncle from her Mother’s family.

A seller on eBay with the username “junybean” likes old stuff and frequents auctions, buying things despite her husband’s objections. Some time ago she bought a box of old books at an auction near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Earlier this year junybean needed some cash to pay for a car repair bill, so she put the books up for auction.

That triggered the watch Dee had established and she received an email notification of the Grimsrud listing. She clicked through to examine the items.

“Imagine my surprise,” wrote Dee to me, “to zoom in on photos of various pages containing my grandmother's very-recognizable handwriting, and snapshots of various family members, including my mother as a young girl!” She immediately contacted junybean who got special permission from eBay to cancel the auction so she could get the scrapbooks to Dee.

“Just today I went to visit my 91-year-old uncle, to deliver to him a scrapbook kept by his mother from about 1917 to about 1941 and his baby book,” wrote Dee. He was the last living person documented therein. “Needless to say, he was in tears much of the time this afternoon while we uncovered treasure after treasure pasted and written in the books!”

Dee and her family wonder where the books—which no living family member knew existed—had been all those years. How had the books left the family and made their way from Milwaukee to Oshkosh?

Junybean told Dee, “It actually makes me think that there was some sort of divine intervention to help you locate these.” Dee’s best friend calls it “genealogical karma,” Dee’s reward for helping so many people as a reference archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society as well as helping numerous friends and acquaintances.

We call it “serendipity in genealogy.”

Thank you, Dee, for sharing.

P.S. Dee recommends creating carefully worded watches on eBay for family surnames, clarified with place names and or other focusing keywords.

Sources: Dee Grimsrud ([email address withheld for privacy]) to the Ancestry Insider (, emails, “Another ‘Serendipity in Genealogy’ Story,” 13 September 2013 and 14 September 2013, privately held by the Ancestry Insider.

Thursday, December 12, 2013 November 2013 User Newsletter

In its November 2013 user newsletter, FamilySearch said a number of interesting things.


CEO, Dennis Brimhall responded to criticisms that the website changes too much. “It can be very difficult for those of us who didn’t grow up using the tools of technology to keep up with this ever-evolving revolution,” said Brimhall. He said that FamilySearch has to balance the human cost of change with the benefits that those changes bring.

“We never change just for the sake of change,” Brimhall said. “Our intent is that each change makes it easier for you to find a record, a photograph, or a story that helps you find your ancestors. If we can do that, then we will be happy with the changes we bring about—and be confident you will be, too.”

You can read the complete text of Brimhall’s message on the FamilySearch blog.

FamilySearch Drop-down Menu

Site Navigation

Currently, navigating around the site can be less than optimal. As I’ve mentioned, they recently added a site map. The newsletter gave a sneak peak at an upcoming user interface change designed to make navigation easier. The change will provide a drop-down menu if you hover over the current navigation buttons, as shown in the illustration to the right.

The newsletter reminded users of the upcoming RootsTech conference. “Whether attendees are just beginning their family history, an avid hobbyist, or an experienced researcher, RootsTech has something for everyone.” For more information, see “Announcing RootsTech 2014 Registration and Limited Time Discount” on the FamilySearch blog.

FamilySearch Indexing

The newsletter revealed more details about future changes to the FamilySearch Indexing program. “Everything in the new indexing system—including the actual indexing tool—will be available on through current web browsers,” wrote product manager, Scott Flinders. “You will no longer be required to download a separate desktop application or go to a separate website to participate in indexing.” Flinders wrote that they are targeting desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. “We have found that smartphones don’t have a large enough screen to provide an optimal indexing experience, so support for those devices will be limited to viewing informational pages.”

FamilySearch will be adding a new “My Indexing page.” (Better not tell Ron Tanner. He’s finally making headway on getting users to replace the word “my” with “our.” :-) Your My Indexing page will show the batches you are working on, messages you have received, progress you are making, groups you are a member of, and activities and achievements of yourself and your friends.

Future Indexing ToolThe indexing program itself will roll out in stages throughout 2014. The illustration to the right is called a “mockup.” That means it is suggestive of how the tool might look. When it is eventually released, it may or not look like this.

You will be able to use the indexing tool directly from the indexing project page or from the project list. All the familiar data entry methods and toolbars will be present, as well as new ones.

Batch selection will allow more than just project selection. You will be able to look into certain projects and pick by location or time period.

For more information, see “The Future of Indexing” on the FamilySearch blog.

I would give you a link to see the entire newsletter on a webpage, but I can’t find a way to do so without giving out my private email address. Can somebody at FamilySearch fix that? Until such time, you’ll have to settle with the links that I have provided.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Some FamilySearch Indexing Stats

FamilySearch IndexingAs the year approaches a close, I thought you’d like to see some stats reported in the November FamilySearch Indexing newsletter.

1,074,435,236 - Total Records Completed

217 – Current Projects

116,063,640 - Total Records Completed in 2013

268,018 – Contributors in 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RootsTech 2014 Bloggers

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech 2014 bloggerI am honored to again be chosen as an official blogger for the upcoming RootsTech conference.

The RootsTech conference will be held this year a little earlier than previous years. It will be held from the 6th to the 8th of  February 2014. It will also be held in larger meeting spaces. While still in the Salt Palace Convention Center, it will be held in the older, larger, East side of the building. This is a welcome change.

One of each day’s keynotes will also be a blogger. Here’s the list of all the keynotes:

Thursday, February 6

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond, blogger and author, The Pioneer Woman

Ree is an award-winning blogger and New York Times bestselling author. Her popular website, The Pioneer Woman, was founded in 2006 and showcases her cooking, photography, and stories about country life.

Annelies van den Belt

Annelies van den Belt, CEO, DC Thompson Family History

Annelies is changing the way digital genealogical records are published and organized. Her company hosts 1.8 billion genealogical records across a family of online brands.

Friday, February 7

Judy Russell

Judy Russell, blogger and professional genealogist, The Legal Genealogist

Judy is a certified genealogist with a law degree who enjoys helping others understand the interplay between genealogy and the law. She blogs and maintains The Legal Genealogist website.

Dr. Spencer Wells

Dr. Spencer Wells, project director, National Geographic Genographic Project

The Indiana Jones of genetics, Dr. Wells has traveled the world and captured the DNA of more than a half-million people to tell the story of the human journey.

Saturday, February 8

Todd Hansen

Todd Hansen, TV host, The Story Trek

Behind every door there is a story. This TV series consists of random door-to-door interviews to discover who lives behind those doors and their real stories.

Stephanie Nielsen

Stephanie Nielsen, blogger and author, NieNie Dialogues

Stephanie's story of survival and recovery after a plane crash captured the hearts of the nation. She has inspired others through interviews with Oprah Winfrey and on the Today Show.

You can find a complete list of official RootsTech bloggers on the RootsTech website.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Blindly Indexing Records

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I have been indexing immigration records.  I am now questioning the value of these records.  They do not indicate where the immigrant came from.  No relationship is given.  What is the value?  Should we be blindly indexing records or should we be indexing the most valuable records? 

David Wiggins

Dear David,

I assume you are indexing ships’ passenger manifests. The earlier the record, the more sketchy the information.

Even without this information, these records can be extremely valuable in making that all important hop across the pond to your ancestor’s old home. Families, neighbors, and friends often traveled together, making it possible to pick your ancestor out of a sea of badly identified immigrants. Arrival dates and ports can be cross-referenced with published sources (like Allen’s Directory or contemporary newspapers) to learn departure ports. Knowing when, where, and with whom your ancestor left Europe can lead to further records and clues.

Indexing ships’ passenger lists opens these records up like microfilm never could. Previously, one had to search port by port, year by year, and ship arrival by ship arrival to find a potential ancestor. A search that previously might take a lifetime can be performed in indexed records in a fraction of a second.

I applaud your desire to focus your valuable time on indexing valuable records. As you review the list of available projects, I hope you will consider immigration records. In my opinion, an index comprehensive across time and ports is well worth creating.

--The Ancestry Insider

Friday, December 6, 2013

Darned People Who Marry Themselves

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: Married to Herself

Here’s an interesting entry in FamilySearch Family Tree: Barbara Defty married herself and had a child when she was eight years old.

Barbara Defty is married to herself

This introduces an interesting conundrum. Do you fix it?

The answer is not as simple as you might think.

  • In 2009 Kelly Hildebrandt married Kelly Hildebrandt. (They have since split.)
  • There are cases of women having children at age eight, or younger. (Listed in Wikipedia, some of these cases appear dubious to me. However, I didn’t check the sources myself. And I didn’t check the reputation of the cited periodicals, which include the British Medical Journal. weighs in on a well documented case, declaring it credible. When you think about it, a misfiring pituitary gland is the only thing required to make the possibility possible.)
  • Gender-specific names don’t always guarantee gender. David Rencher’s father was named “Joy” (see “Darned Gender-Specific Names”) and David tells me that there’s an area of Arizona with several men of that name.
  • Changing entries in the tree without proof is a no-no. Some “helpful” person “fixed” the entry of his father, Joy Rencher, son of Jay Rencher. Obvious typo? The birth certificate plainly shows otherwise.
  • Given that you should have proof before making changes, proving a negative is very difficult. This particular alignment is possible, no matter how unlikely.
  • Consulting the source might easily show the thinking of the contributor. However, FamilySearch doesn’t require sources and in this particular case the contributor did not specify any.
  • Information about Barbara might make it possible to find the source yourself. However, the contributor specified no specific birth date (“before 1765”), no specific birthplace (“England”), no specific death date (“deceased”), no credible relationships, and nothing else (besides the name).
  • FamilySearch doesn’t require contributors to make public any contact information and many don’t. Even when the contact information is known, doesn’t always display it, as happened while I wrote this article.)
    Sometimes Family Tree doesn't display a user's email address, even when it should
  • If the source for the contribution had been legacy Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource File, then you would not be able to discover who the contributor was, let alone contact them or their descendants. FamilySearch refuses to disclose the contributors’ contact information, even though the submission agreement explicitly gave FamilySearch rights to do so. In fact, the old website did disclose contributors’ name and contact information. Why FamilySearch refuses to do so now is… well, I can’t think of a way to end that sentence without getting myself in big trouble.
  • Information from Family Tree will persist in other family trees, online and off, forever. One man’s conclusion is another man’s source. There may be information in Family Tree provided by eye witnesses that is available nowhere else. In some situations it can be used as a credible source. (I’d like to request that once a contributor is deceased, FamilySearch publicly associate the username with their entry in the tree. That would help researchers understand the strength of evidence supplied by that informant.)

Darned FamilySearch. Some of its policies and procedures are making it difficult to create an accurate Family Tree.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Atomic Genealogy

Atomic genealogyThe word “atom” comes from the Greek atomos, meaning indivisible. Merriam Webster defines it as “the smallest particle of a substance that can exist by itself” or “a very small amount of something.”

When it comes to doing genealogy, I define atomic genealogy as answering the question, “Is person X in record A the same as person Y in record B?” In other words, “Do these two records talk about the same person?”

The conclusion resulting from an atomic operation is itself, a record. In other words, the entry for your James Smith in FamilySearch Family Tree is a record. When you find a historic record about a James Smith, the decision that the historic record is about your James Smith is atomic genealogy.

I believe this census record about James Smith should be attached to this James Smith in the tree because they have the same name, the approximate birth year from the census (1879) matches the birth date in the tree (2 June 1880), the wives’ names are the same (Mary), and the names and ages of the three children in the census household (Susan, David, and Tom) match three of his five children in the tree (Susan, David, and Thomas).

When Family Tree asks for your reason for attaching the record to the tree, do you enter all this? Or is it all self-evident? Keep in mind that after you attach the record, the values in the tree might change. Is your time better spent otherwise? I’ve been told that most people leave the reason blank. Is that okay?

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New FamilySearch Retires in December

FamilySearch recently started to warn visitors to the website that it would be retired (my word) in December. I say “retired” because users will no longer be able to make changes. However, it will not go away at that time. It will become “Read Only.” Users will be forced to switch to FamilySearch Family Tree.

Notification that New FamilySearch will be retired to read-only status in December 2013

The notice, pictured above, does not specify when the change will occur.

For those of you who can’t see the image above, here is the full text of the notice:

December 2013 Becomes Read Only

The next step to fully implement FamilySearch Family Tree on is to change to read-only status. This milestone will occur in December 2013.

Users will still be able to view information on after the change, but users will no longer be able to edit or change information.

Users have many reasons to switch from to FamilySearch Family Tree. They can:

  1. Correct information about ancestors and relationships.
  2. Find valuable records for any ancestor, right from the person page.
  3. Add sources to ancestors with a few simple mouse clicks.
  4. Add photos, documents, and stories to ancestors.
  5. Print fan charts, pedigrees, and family group records.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

FamilySearch Site Map

Because FamilySearch didn’t provide their own, over the years I’ve published a couple of site maps for Coming almost a year since the last time I did so, FamilySearch has finally published a site map of their own. The link to the site map is found in the footer of (almost) every page:

The page footer contains a link to the new site map

Friday, November 29, 2013

Darned November 31st

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 November 31st!

Darned November 31st

Need I say more?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Family History Library Cuts Reference Staffing Hours

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah[This was new news back in September, but I think the information is still current. Sorry about taking so long to report this important story.]

Back in September a user posted this complaint on the FamilySearch GetSatisfaction forum:

Kent Jaffa 3 months ago

Dissatisfied - No Main Library consultants availabile in evenings and Saturdays

I am very displeased that the main library will no longer have consultants after 7 pm and on Saturdays. It is sad to have such a nice facility and not have expertise available to answer difficult questions for which the missionaries are not trained to handle.

Please change this policy.

I asked for an official statement on the matter from Paul Nauta, FamilySearch spokesperson. The statement says that the library is employing a new patron service model. Some research consultants have been allocated to “providing enhanced patron services to family history centers throughout North America, Latin America, and Internationally.” As part of the new model, the library has examined library usage and changed staffing accordingly. “The staff change [decrease] only effects 14 hours of the 60 hours we are open each week.  Also, during the 46 peak Library hours, more research consultant staff members are out helping patrons than ever before.”

In a subsequent post, Jaffa verified this to be the case. “While the number of consultants was reduced, the number of on-duty consultants during the daytime has been increased,” he said.

The statement also points out the large number of capable volunteers helping in the library. “There is a common misconception that only research consultants can offer assistance.  Many of our missionaries and community volunteers are accredited and expert in their fields of research.”

Jaffa, in yet another post, said, “While in general the missionary/volunteers are great at handling the easy to intermediate difficult questions and have made and continue to make a significant contribution to helping patrons, they are no[t] a replacement for the staff.” He said, “I know of only one or two volunteers/missionaries that are accredited on the British floor and I am pretty sure that neither of these work during the hours where consultants will no longer be available.”

As I say, there may have been changes since I received this statement back in September. The statement says, “The change has only been in effect for a few days, so we ask for your patience and understanding as we implement and refine the new patron service model.”

The statement closes by saying,

The Family History Library is open more hours, provides more computers, printing options, and professional help than any other genealogical library, society, or archive in the world.  We remain committed to providing all of these services free of charge to patrons from all over the world.

From my experience, that is certainly the case. When I visit court houses, libraries, and archives, I fully expect them to be closed evenings, weekends, and one or two weekdays. Always check beforehand before travelling a long distance to visit one. At the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C., one limitation is that the staff that retrieves items from archive shelves works only during the workday. However, you can continue to use the items into evening hours and the weekend. Thus, to best utilize a visit to NARA, it is important to order enough materials during the workday to keep you busy during the subsequent evenings and weekends.

You might approach the Family History Library similarly. if you need advanced research consultations, work them into your afternoons so you have enough to do to keep you busy in the evenings.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NGS Conference Registration Opens 1 December 2013

I received this notification from the National Genealogical Society regarding their 2014 national conference, to be held in Richmond, Virginia:

NGS 2014 Family History Conference

Arlington, VA, 20 NOVEMBER 2013: The National Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the program for the 2014 Family History Conference is now available in a sixteen-page Registration Brochure, which can be downloaded at The online version of the program is also available on the conference website at Conference registration opens on 1 December 2013 at  A number of special events have limited seating, so register on 1 December or as soon as possible thereafter if you plan to attend these events.

The conference will be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and Marriott Hotel located in downtown Richmond, Virginia, 7–10 May 2014. Conference highlights include a choice of more than 175 lectures, given by many nationally known speakers and subject matter experts about a broad array of topics including records for Virginia and its neighboring states; migration into and out of the region; military records; state and federal records; ethnic groups including African Americans, German, Irish, and Ulster Scots; methodology; analysis and problem solving; and the use of technology including genetics, mobile devices, and apps useful in genealogical research.

The first few pages of the brochure provide details about conference logistics and describe several special events. The daily conference program includes the name of each speaker, the lecture title, and a brief description of the presentation. A number of social events and workshops are also offered during the conference. If 2014 will be your first NGS Family History Conference, check out for additional information about what you might experience at the conference. 

An exhibit hall with more than seventy-five vendors will be free and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, directly across from the Marriott Hotel. Exhibitors will include genealogy database and software providers, booksellers, genealogy societies, providers of genetic testing, and much more.

Up-to-date information about the availability, amenities, and rates for conference hotels can be found at

Sign up for the NGS Conference Blog at so you do not miss conference news or announcements.

Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to genealogy education, high research standards, and the preservation of genealogical records. The Arlington, Virginia- based nonprofit is the premier national society for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced family historian seeking excellence in publications, educational offerings, research guidance, and opportunities to interact with other genealogists.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Dendrology

The Ancestry Insider's Monday Mailbox

Dear readers,

This is a follow up to “Monday Mailbox: World Family Tree.” said that World Family Tree was not available on Reader John had further insight.

Dear Ancestry Insider,

I do not believe that answer is correct. Several years ago, Ancestry had a database in their collection that was called, I believe, "Ancestry World Tree". It was supposedly composed of "stitching" together information from trees and various of their databases. I was told by Ancestry personnel that the World Family Tree information was included in that database and the source tab could actually direct you back to the original tree.

I am sorry that the World Family Tree database does not seem to be available any longer as it was a great source of clues. Some of the early WFT disks had some excellent material on them.

As a follow-up question... I have dozens of the CDs from FTM, including many WFT CDs. Current FTM does not read them; how can they be viewed? Does ancestry have a version of their viewer that runs on current versions of Windows?

John Lisle *

Dear Readers,

John may be correct, although it was OneWorldTree, not Ancestry World Tree. Ancestry World Tree was a collection of user-submitted GEDCOMs. See “ Dendrology 101: Ancestry World Tree.” OneWorldTree was a machine stitched single tree formed by merging individual GEDCOMs. See “ Dendrology 101: OneWorldTree.” I never heard definitively, but there was talk that WFT GEDCOMs might be included.

For years, both OneWorldTree and Ancestry World Tree continued to be available, even while they were increasingly deemphasized. It became harder and harder to find links to them, but if you could find them, they still worked. Sometime since the last time I checked, they have been completely removed. However, Ancestry World Tree is still available as WorldConnect on

John also asked how to view old FTM disks, including WFT disks. Debbie in Northern Nevada informed him of the Family Archive Viewer, available at Michigan Girl said that it hadn’t worked for her under Windows 7.

Has anyone else tried it under Windows 7? Are there compatibility settings that can make it work?

--The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 22, 2013

Serendipity from Abuelita

Altagracia GonzalezOn a Saturday night in December 2011, Marge Vallazza walked past her spinet piano whereon were various family photos. Her eyes were drawn to a photograph of her Abuelita, her grandmother. Marge was but six years old when her Abuelita Altagracia Gonzalez had died. She picked up the photograph and spoke to her Abuelita, “I wish I knew more about you! I wish I'd known you better.”

While Marge had had great success tracing Altagracia’s maternal line, her paternal line was a complete mystery. All she knew was that Altagracia’s grandfather had been in cobbler in Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico.

The very next day Marge’s desires were answered. Marge was exploring the website of Linda Castanon-Long. Linda had transcribed thousands of entries of Zacatecas families from FamilySearch microfilm. Marge had been to her friend Linda’s website before, but this day things were different.

“What did I find?” Marge says, “A plethora of my Grandma's Gonzalez and related families: Castaneda, Acosta, and other lovely names I am descended from!!!”

Marge is quick to give credit. “Thanks to people like Linda Castanon-Long, who is meticulous about documenting her sources, I was led to the right source.”  But Marge’s acknowledgements don’t end there.

“Serendipity? Yes! Grandma's spirit? More than likely. Our ancestors want us to find them and they want us to know them.”

Thanks, Marge, for sharing your story and the beautiful portrait of your grandmother.

Sources: Marge Vallazza ([email address withheld for privacy]) to the Ancestry Insider (, emails, “Serendipity,” 20 September 2013 and 16 November 2013, privately held by the Ancestry Insider.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

FamilySearch Old Logo Merchandise Sale

FamilySearch branded merchandise

FamilySearch recently rolled out a new logo, obsoleting merchandise sporting the old logo. Consequently, Deseret Book is offering discounts on the old merchandise through the end of November.

Items include:

    •        USB flash drives (2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB)
    •        T-shirts, polo shirts, dress shirts, cardigans, and jackets
    •        Journals, notepads, and padfolios
    •        Lanyards and lapel pins
    •        Pens, pencils, and rulers
    •        Stickers and decals

To order, visit:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 Releases 1921 Census of Canada

The 1921 Census of Canada is now available on Ancestry.comOn 29 October added an index to their 1921 Census of Canada database. They posted the images back in August at which time they were available free of charge. With the release of the index, I was no longer able to access the images for free.

According to the Library and Archives Canada the census has 197,529 images. “This census [is] the largest source of Canadian genealogical information online.” They wrote that “almost 11,700 commissioners and enumerators recorded by hand nearly 8.8 million individuals in thousands of communities across the country.”

For more information about Canadian Censuses, see “Canada Census” in the FamilySearch wiki. alerted me to other databases released in October. The only other multi-million record database was 30 years of the Harvard Lampoon. Okay, maybe I’m misrepresenting the “U.S., School Catalogs, 1765–1935” database a little bit. “This database contains a variety of publications listing names of students, faculty, alumni, and others associated with U.S. educational institutions and associations.” But the Lampoon is among its 5,378,762 records.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Mailbox: World Family Tree

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I wonder if you could tell me if we can view anywhere on the information that was on WFT disks? Also, would you be able to view that information on the library edition of

Marlene Polster

Dear Marlene,

I asked about World Family Tree (WFT) accessibility. As you probably know, World Family Tree was/is available for purchase on CD-ROMs and is also accessible online at, a website owned by told me that the user agreement with the contributors prevents them from making the data available on

--The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 15, 2013

Darned Overly Helpful Indexers

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 Overly Helpful Indexers

It was a usual practice back in the days of indexing the U.S. censuses to use other census years to help decipher hard to read text. I admit; I did it too. But I always wondered if the extra work would go for naught, knowing that an arbitrator might not be as diligent. I always wished I had a way to enter a note that was sent to the arbitrator, explaining how I had deciphered the entry and asking that they give extra weight to my efforts.

I recently came across an entry in the 1870 census wherein the indexer had found a creative way to send such a note to the arbitrator: The indexer included the note in the name field:


The indexer had found Bricius spelled differently in the 1860 census, so had made a note of it as part of her name. Now Bricius’s name is “Bricius (Briceus-186o Cs)”. Likewise with “Reymond (Raymond-186o Cs)”.

This entry is doubly disturbing. Why in the world did the arbitrator not fix this?

And how did FamilySearch allow it? It would be a simple computerized check for FamilySearch to detect this aberration. It could have automatically been flagged for intervention. Perhaps it could have been sent back to a FamilySearch missionary or another arbitrator. Two arbitrators would need to agree that the entry was an acceptable exception to the rule.

If anyone at FamilySearch is listening, perhaps these suggestions could be incorporated into next year’s new version of FamilySearch indexing.

Darned those overly helpful indexers!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Importance of FamilySearch Record Preservation

A destructive magnitude 7.2 quake hit Bohol, Philippines in mid October. There were 222 reported dead, 8 missing, and 976 people injured. There were 69,000 structures damaged or destroyed. Among these were centuries old Catholic Church buildings.

A coworker pointed me to an article written by felvirordinario, Filipino genealogist and blogger. He, first acknowledging the human tragedy, next turned his thoughts to the survival of the old Church records.

Before and after views of the Loon Church
Before and after views of a Catholic Church. (Photo by @LailRara Twitter)

He wrote,

As an advocate of records preservation, one of my first concerns were the records found in these churches. What of them at the face of this great catastrophe? Were they destroyed along with the structures they were housed in?

Read his article “Forever Preserved: Genealogical Records after the Bohol Quake,” to learn if the records survived and the role FamilySearch plays in record preservation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Census Search Tip

The usefulness of the U.S. census took a big leap forward in 1850 with the inclusion of all members of the household. The addition of relationship to head of household, added in 1880, was another big addition. While 1850, 1860, and 1870 lack that relationship information, there is a search strategy on that deals with it for years 1850 and 1870. has added a field called “Any Household Member.”

FamilySearch's Any Household Member feature

Suppose you are looking for Louisa Raymond. You don’t know where she might be in 1850 and searching on her name returns 250 results. You could check them all, but there is a faster way. Let’s say you know she is working for a Whipple family as a nanny. Enter Whipple as Other Person’s Last Names and Louisa jumps nicely to the top of the search results!

The same capability is available for the 1870 census.

(Unfortunately, this is not possible with the 1860 census. FamilySearch’s 1860 census is substandard. People are not organized into families or households. FamilySearch lists each person in the census separately and alone. It is not possible to see who lives together in families unless you have a Fold3 subscription with which you can look at the images.)

Another good thing to know about all searches on FamilySearch is that locations need to be specified from the lowest level up to the U.S. state or country level. For example, specifying "Smithfield" as the residence place in the 1930 U.S. census returns no results. But specifying "Smithfield, Cache, Utah" returns the expected results.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Darnedest Research Report

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 Research Report

We’ve all been there. Years of research on an ancestor, and still our research report sounds like this one from Peppermint Patty:

Peppermint Patty's research report
Credit: Peanuts Worldwide LLC. Visit the official website at for more fun.

Thursday, November 7, 2013 Adds Printable Fan-chart, Other Features

I’ve written before about the Misbach, colorful fan-charts that can be printed for your Family Tree pedigree (below left). Now you can do the same thing from within Family Tree (below right). The Misbach 9-generation chart is slightly more utilitarian and nicer looking by using a greater number of shades of each color to highlight 16 family branches compared to FamilySearch’s 7-generation, four-branch version. But the FamilySearch chart wins for convenience. 9 generation fan chart printable fan chart

To produce the FamilySearch chart, click on the printer icon above and to the left of the chart. Or from the Person page, click on Fan Chart in the print section on the right-hand side of the page. It may take a moment or two for to create the PDF file, which can then be printed or supplied to a business that prints large charts.

Family Tree has the ability to reorder sources on the Person page. Hover over a source and arrows appear to the right of the source. Click on an arrow to move the source up or down. reorder sources

To provide feedback to FamilySearch, scroll down to the bottom of a page and click on Feedback.

The Feedback link at the bottom of the page on

Select Suggestion, Compliment, or Problem. This should not be used to report misindexed names.