Friday, August 30, 2013

Darned Royalty Records

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 Are the Darnedest Things: Darned Royalty Records

The birth registration for Prince George of Cambridge

The new prince of England is named “His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.” What the heck do you put in the surname field of your genealogy program?

His father has quite the occupation: “Prince of the United Kingdom.”

There is some discussion among royal circles as to the correctness of Kate’s occupation, “Princess of the United Kingdom.” Could it be that even royals can fill out vital record forms incorrectly? For more information on this important issue, see “Royal Baby's Birth Certificate Lists Parents' Jobs as Prince, Princess.” (Thank you to the coworker who alerted me to this article.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#FGS2013 - Society Partnership Opportunities

imageAt the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies Ed Donakey and Elaine Hasleton presented “Society Partnership Opportunities.” Donakey and Hasleton are deputies to David Rencher, FamilySearch chief genealogy officer. Rencher coauthored the presentation’s syllabus.

“Genealogical societies make good partners,” says the syllabus. “Your society can add significant value to the community, partner with commercial genealogical companies, commercial business providers,

and other non-profit societies to become an active part of the ‘genealogical eco system.’”

Focus on your strengths and exclusivity for sharing with others. “Think of the positive things about your society and enlarge them even more,” said Haselton. You have knowledge of local area and records. You have the genealogical information of members. You can marshal volunteer resources. You have existing publications.

Work with other societies and organizations. Don’t start from ground zero. Establish methodology to accomplish projects. Organize and establish a plan. Communicate, cooperate, and collaborate.

The 1940 census project is an example collaborative effort. Local societies brought volunteers with knowledge of person and place names for their locales. For their part, FamilySearch brought indexing software and a website for publishing the results. Together the community accomplished something that neither could accomplish alone.

Consider participating in the “Preserve the Pensions” project to digitize pension records of the War of 1812. FGS has organized, sponsored, and is evangelizing the project. is publishing the digitized images. is matching monetary donations. Societies have promoted the project with their members. Some are matching donations. See if you wish to support effort individually or as a society.

FGS has entered into a partnership with Dell, said Donakey. Dell offers FGS members and friends discounts on computer purchases. The discount can be used by anyone whether for society use or individual. See for more information. There are possible returns to FGS for purchases made through that site. Dell is also providing a computer as a prize for an annual FGS contest. The contest is to encourage young people to become involved in genealogy.

The FamilySearch online book library is a partnership with Allen County Public Library, several other libraries, the Internet Archive, and missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The collaboration has resulted in the posting of over 100,000 books online.

Partnership opportunities for societies exist with other historical or genealogical societies, umbrella societies, individual historians or genealogists, museums, libraries, newspapers, and corporate sponsors.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lessons Learned from WDYTYA at #FGS2013

Who Do You Think You has done surveys a number of times. “Almost consistently, every time, 80% of people say they have an interest in learning about their family history,” Eric Shoup said. “They want to learn something cool about themselves.”

Shoup spoke at the Breakfast Saturday morning of the 2013 conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Shoup is senior vice president of product for

“We as the leaders in this space,… it is incumbent on us to try and get as many other people involved in this great hobby as we can,” he said. For many people who come to a website or a library to become involved in genealogy, the experience is not what they expected.

“Where might we look for inspiration about the best way to engage people in family history?” he asked. It is not, FamilySearch, other websites, or a library. “It is Who Do You Think You Are.”

Shoup said that in the United Kingdom the show has had 14 seasons where the average viewership is 4 million viewers per episode. Here in the United States on NBC, the average was 5 million. Halfway through last season 26 million unique people had seen the show. Add up subscribers to the various websites, members of the LDS Church doing genealogy, and everyone else actively engaged and there probably isn’t that many people. The show is bringing in more people at a higher rate than anything else we are doing.

So the question is, “What can we learn from Who Do You Think You Are about engaging people in family history?” And, “How can we apply it to what we do?” believes there are five lessons we can learn from the show for engaging people in Family History.

1. Experts are essential.

It was fun to see several of the experts who have appeared in the show sitting in the room. Shoup called out Josh Taylor, who has been in four or five episodes. “He’s a reoccurring character now,” joked Shoup. (Gosh. When you think about it, Josh has appeared even more than any of the stars!) Shoup made the point that relative to the average person, we are all experts. “It is important for you to share your knowledge,” he said. “And you should be soliciting help from others in areas that are not your expertise.”

We need to think about the 80%. A lot of those people don’t want to become experts.We need to have proper expectations about what we can expect from them. Not everyone is going to be interested in citations or research or going into archives. We’ve got to guide them. “That is our job as experts.”

2. Records are a means to an end.

They guarantee that the story is real. They enable us to do family history. Records are the key to authenticity. “More importantly, they are the launching pad to the story.” When we find a census record, we need to look at what story it tells about our ancestors’ lives. “We need to suck the marrow out of these records to see what story is being told,” he said. As experts we can see what the story is in ways that others can not.

3. Context is key.

Many times we don’t have the full story. Basic records are great, but they don’t always tell what that person’s life was like. Personal accounts, societal themes, historical events, and period photographs add needed context.

4. Know your audience.

There are different approaches to sharing to different groups at different times. Not everything is of equal interest. “Talk about the ‘greatest hits’ in your tree.” And make sure they see their meaning to you.

5. Beat them at their own game.

We as individuals can do better at engaging the 80% than Who Do You Think You Are can. Unlike with a television show, the “viewers,” our friends and relatives, can interact with us, the “stars.” It’s a dialog. We can make it extremely personal.

Shoup said that to engage that 80% of the human race who want to learn about their family history, it is up to us. We can do so if we will learn and apply the lessons from Who Do You Think You Are.

Friday, August 23, 2013

#FGS2013 - Getting the Most Out of Historical Newspapers

Peter Drinkwater of gave a session titled, “Getting the Most Out of Historical Newspapers” at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Drinkwater is director of product management for, which is owned by

Newspapers are a good source of basic genealogical information such as vitals, names, and relationships. But they also contain rich genealogical and biographical information that is so important for family history research.

Newspaper search results rank very low in search results, leaving newspapers an underutilized resource. So approached Fold3 and asked if they could take their technology and build a newspaper site. (Fold3 still operates in separate offices in Lindon, Utah, even though they are owned by The new site,, launched in November 2012.

Both and Fold3 have existing newspaper collections, which they will retain. However, neither will be adding to their collections, other than the possibility that Fold3 might add military-specific publications. has given up on newspapers. The indexes are quite large and they don’t show up very well in search results. (I think it is interesting that FamilySearch wants to get into newspapers just when is getting out. One must know something the other doesn’t. The question is, which one is it?)

All new additions will be made to To acquire new newspapers, they digitize microfilms of newspapers at libraries, they go directly to newspaper publishers, and they do deals with suppliers of microfilmed newspapers.

To publish a newspaper, websites take the newspaper, photograph it, enter basic citation information about each page, and OCR the rest. In the OCR—optical character recognition—process, the computer uses algorithms to try and recognize the shapes of letters, creating searchable text from the photograph image. Modern OCR engines are nearly 100% accurate on clean, new newspapers. But on dark, streaked, or poorly printed old newspaper pages, it makes lots of mistakes.

Using OCR instead of humans for indexing is a tradeoff between accuracy and the amount of material that can be published. Using OCR, is now adding two to three million new pages each month.

When you search content that is OCRed, you must take that into account. Names may be misspelled in new and unusual ways. I’ve seen lowercase d indexed as “cl” or even “c1.” For some fonts or for barely legible images, it is common to see letters misindexed as punctuation marks. Lowercase d might be indexed as “i:]”. You have to think visually instead of phonetically. Fortunately, articles often repeat surnames several times in an article, increasing the chances that at least once they were indexed correctly.)

I’ve heard use the term “bag of words” to describe another problematic characteristic of OCR content. When the computer indexes the page, it doesn’t recognize the contextual semantics of the words. When it reads the word “park” it doesn’t know if it is a surname or a regular word. (I doubt it even knows whether it is a noun or a verb.) You must take this into account as well.

“Newspaper search is more art than science,” said Drinkwater.

Sometimes it helps to search for first and last names in quotes, like “Emma Walk”. When you do this remember you must issue separate searches for names with and without middle name.

Before performing a newspaper search, check to see that the website you are using has newspapers in the time and locale that will likely contain the information you seek. Keep in mind that newspapers often carried news from surrounding communities. There are several ways this can be done on One way is to browse the collection. Another is to search for the name of the place. Another is to use the map located at The map has pins showing locations with papers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Über Cool Family History Center of the Future Shown at #FGS2013

“Everything I’m going to share with you is top secret,” warned D. Merrill White of FamilySearch. White was a luncheon speaker Thursday at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. His presentation was titled “Discovering the FamilySearch Family History Library of Tomorrow.” He warned that at the end of the presentation we would see a flash of light and all we would remember is that there was good chocolate cake.

Fortunately, I’m a fast typer!

Family history centers are designed mostly for researchers and that’s mostly who uses them. The average patron age is over 50 and families and youth don’t feel welcome. “It’s very rare that you see anyone younger than that age in a family history center,” said White. Centers receive 2.5 million annual visits, which sounds really good until you realize there are 4,600 centers.

White has pushed for years for change and recently he got permission to make some. He calls it, “Family Discovery Centers.”

“So what I’m going to walk you through today are some prototypes of things we are thinking about doing throughout the world,” said White. “We’re going to start with a prototype in Seattle, Washington.”

“We are looking at locations with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, with the British Library in London, and of course Salt Lake. The mother ship has to have one of these,” he said. “But it’s also something we want to do in our existing family history centers.”

The Family History Library todayThe FHL as it might someday look
How the Family History Library might look as a Family Discovery Center

“We’re still preserving what we do well at, and that’s giving you access to records and expertise. We still know that that’s vital,” said White. “But how can we get more people involved?”   

The Family Discovery Center mission statement is, “The Family Discovery Center offers individuals and families simple yet powerful in-person experiences to discover their heritage and have their hearts turned to their ancestors.”

FamilySearch learned from the Museum of Tolerance that such a center has several key aspects. It has to be sensory. It has to be emotional, having humorous or touching stories about real people. It needs to be personal—let you learn about yourself through your ancestors. It needs to be motivational; the experience must invite you to take action.

They’ve been testing prototypes in focus groups finding out what works and what people want. They have held focus groups in New York, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and several international locations. “Now we’re getting to the point that, well, now we’ve got to go build one,” he said.

FamilySearch picked a meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) next to the Seattle Temple in Bellevue, Washington. The building already has available space and they wanted to test in a meeting house. They also wanted to test in a smaller location outside Utah.

White showed us a floor plan of the center. Then he did a virtual walk-through, stopping at each station. For each station he explained the experience and showed a video demonstrating the technologies that could be employed.

Floor plan of the Seattle Family Discovery Center

A patron’s virtual guide through the center might be an app on a tablet device that ties directly into their FamilySearch account. “As they’re going through the experience, they’re finding things they like,” said White. “They’re recording things they enjoyed. It’s [being] preserving into a book about them and about their story that they can continue to work on the next time they come, or at home through the website.”

You’ll bring this device to each of the stations. Not only will it record your experiences, it will help drive and personalize them.

“One of the things we’re excited about we’re calling the ‘community wall,’” said White. The wall, a large touchscreen monitor, would have different content for each center, reflecting the locale, its history, and the activities of previous patrons. Patrons can share, even after returning home, photos, recipes, and so forth. You can interact using the touch screen or the tablet. “We want people in the area to share things. It’s their wall.”

There is a station they call the “story center for children.” It’s an interactive pop-up 3-D storybook. The book sits in front of a computer monitor and there’s a camera above you that watches you and the book. Everything you do in the book affects what is shown on the screen. White showed a cool video illustrating the technology, but I can’t find a copy. Here is a video that illustrates the same technology. (It is called augmented reality.)

There would be a bank of monitors where you would be able to learn things about yourself: “Tell me about my name. Tell me about the year I was born. How common is my surname? Where is it predominantly located? What countries?” For those who have already entered some of their tree into FamilySearch, FamilySearch will look at it and tell them things. “Did you know you have ancestors from Seattle?” Or, “Did you know these types of things about your surname?” If they don’t have anything in their tree, this is also where they could start to fill out their pedigree as part of the experience. “Tell us a little bit about yourself, your mother, your father.”

What if you could dress up like any of your ancestors and take your picture anywhere in the world? We jokingly call this station, “Take Your Ancestor on Vacation.”

One room is called “the Time Machine.” It is like the holodeck of Star Trek. (The technology goes by various names, such as immersive environment.) It uses projectors to project on the ceiling, walls, floors, and white objects in the room. They hope to be able to take people to places, such as an old blacksmith shop to learn what it was like to be a blacksmith in the 1850s, or how did one location change from 1830 to 1880 and so on. You could move about by touching a panel. It could recommend things to you based on your pedigree. I found the video he showed us showing what a 3-D room looks like.

There will also be “Story Booths,” the oral history studios I mentioned the other day. “We’re really excited about families being able to come in and talk with one another,” he said. “Perhaps one time it is your son’s day. So you bring in Bobby and everyone sits down together as a family and they all share stories about Bobby. And now that [recording] is Bobby’s.”

“We’re giving you a lot of fun things to do, but we also want to integrate into the entire experience, that as they do things, they start to learn in a very subtle way some research methodologies. ‘How do we get this information?’ ‘All that comes from records.’ They start to see that records help tell these stories. “That’s what we gently push to them as they get ready to do some searching on their own ancestors,” he said.

There is still the area of the center where people can sit down and research on the computers. “Now they’re coming in again, engaging with records, adding them to their tree, and learning more about their ancestors and themselves, and wanting to continue to share and preserve this story when they go home.”

The tree is the climax of the Family Discovery Center experienceThe climax area is a tree. Here families and individuals who have gone through the experience can come and dock their iPads and look at everything they’ve experienced on a grand scale, on the ceiling and on the tree, where they can move things around and display their pedigree as they like.

“This is your sneak peak into the Discovery Center in Seattle, Washington. And we’re going to continue to prototype and test, but our next real big thing is, we’re going to go and build this and see what we can learn from it as we look to build more of these and create a much more immersive experience.”

Wow! That was a bright flash of light! Now what was I saying? Oh, right. Merrill, Project Chocolate Cake (wink, wink) “tastes” great.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is your society website doing all it’s cracked up to be?

“Is your society website doing all it’s cracked up to be?” asked Cyndi Ingle Howells in the opening session of the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2013 annual conference on Wednesday. Wednesday is Society Day and sessions are targeted to societies. General sessions begin Thursday.

Howells is the creator and owner of the award-winning website Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet, a categorized index to more than 327,000 online resources. Howells, a genealogist for more than 31 years, is an internationally known guest lecturer for various genealogical and historical society conferences and seminars.

“I’ve seen them all, the good, the bad, and the ugly,” she said. Her website lists several thousand society websites and she’s looked at every one.

Ask yourself, “Is your society doing what it needs to do to reach its goals?” A website can serve several different tasks for a society. It can be a  flyer, a newsletter, a publication, a store, a portal to other related resources, an archive of education, and other things.

“Look at your website again for the first time,” said Howells. She gave many tips on what to look for, more than I can repeat here.

“A website needs to be maintained,” she said. “A website needs to be updated. A web site needs to be active.” Ask yourself when you last updated your website. It should be at least monthly. Howells prefers weekly. Make certain you have a webmaster and oversight by a committee or the board.

Take advantage of social networking to reach new and younger people.


Make the name of your society obvious. Remember that search engines can’t read graphics, so don’t limit statement of your society name to a logo graphic. Specify where your society is located. State your society mission.

Avoid gobbledee-gook: (Did I spell that correctly?) animated graphics, music, multiple fonts, overly long page titles, and other “garbage.” Use dark text on light background.

“you all have an assignment today,” she said. “it is your job to go look at your site. Figure out what is good with your site, and what is wrong with your site.”

“Make it work the way it needs to,” said Howells.

Access Cyndi’s List at

#FGS2013 - How to Grow Your Society Through Social Media

I attended the full set of FamilySearch sponsored lectures during Society Day at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This was one:

Social Media ExplainedDevin Ashby and Courtney Connolly gave a presentation titled, “Reaching Out Online: How to Grow Your Society Through Social Media.” Ashby is a community advocate for FamilySearch. Connolly works for FamilySearch Indexing in marketing and communications.

Ashby started off by showing a funny image titled “Social Media Explained.” (Shown to the right.) I confess, it is only funny if you already understand particular social networks. But if you do, it is really funny.

Social media is a way to build online communities. When it comes to social media, think marathon, not sprint. You’re not going to be able to put something together and call it done. Social media is about pacing yourself and having awesome content for months. Consistent, good content is important.

Connolly asked us a series of questions and gave us time to write down answers. The first was, “Why do you want to do social media?”

To do social media successfully, you must have a good content strategy. Think about your audience. What are they looking for and what will engage them?

Visual presentation and conversation are the two keys to Facebook. You don’t want too much text. Include a call to action. is an example of a corporate page.

Twitter posts have to be less than 140 characters. Conversations can take place by referencing usernames following the @ symbol. The twitter page is an example corporate page and the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s is a society example.

YouTube channel: is a corporate example. is a society example.

Google+: DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Community. The Google+ hangout feature is awesome.

Blogging is a great way to reach your audience. You can place your blog on your other social media sites. The FamilySearch blog can be found by scrolling to the bottom of and clicking on Blog. Both Ashby and Connolly failed to point out that The Ancestry Insider blog is an example of blinding awesomeness.

Pinterest: The California Genealogical Society and Library has a Pinterest site:

#FGS2013 - Survive and Thrive!

I attended the full set of FamilySearch sponsored lectures during Society Day at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This was one:

FGS has a series of strategy papersCherie Bush and Fran Jensen presented “Survive and Thrive!” Bush is a marketing manager for FamilySearch and Jensen is a deputy chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch. They were substituting for David Rencher, FamilySearch Chief Genealogical Officer.

“Your society has more power and potential than you might think,” wrote Rencher in the syllabus. There are many potential members to your society. You need to position your society in the marketplace and gain exposure.

Examine the name of your society. A name change may attract new members or better communicate the scope of your society. “The National Society, Descendants of John and Elizabeth Hutchins Curtiss” changed their name in 1989 to “the John and Elizabeth Curtis/Curtiss Society.” As the family grew and the organization’s scope changed they went through subsequent name changes as well. (See

Bush reminded us of Cyndi Howell’s emphasis on mission statements. Make certain your society and mission statement are aligned. (Bush emphasized the importance of mission statements to much, she said she’d be known as Miss Mission Statement by the end of the conference.)

“Your society is only as good as your board members,” wrote Rencher. Inventory the skill set you possess. Analyze the skills you need. Check your bylaws to see if your board can be large enough to cover all the skills needed. Form an effective nomination committee that can take you from where you are to where you need to be.

Jensen contrasted societies that survive from societies that thrive. Here again a mission statement is important. To thrive, a society needs a clear definition of the society’s mission, role, and objectives.

Jensen mentioned again the importance of the board. Thriving societies have thriving boards. A member of the class shared her experience in an organization with three year board cycles. Your first year you shadow a more experienced board member. Your second year you function well. Your third year you are shadowed by your replacement.

FGS has a series of strategy papers to help with things like publications, websites, awards, and seminars. Go to Scroll down and look on the left for “Free downloads.” Select it and then select “Society Strategy Series.” There you will find 54 articles to help your society. Some of the topics are newsletters, fundraising, publications, society websites, and seminars and workshops.

#FGS2013 - Breaking Out of the Dog Pile!

I attended the full set of FamilySearch sponsored lectures during Society Day at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This was one of them:

Devin Ashby presented the session, “Breaking Out of the Dog Pile! Energizing Your Society through Projects and Causes.” Ashby is a community advocate for FamilySearch.

“Much of the work in genealogy is happening now in groups,” said Ashby. “Through technology, groups are able to communicate, train each other, and publish records. Internet indexing and other resources can assist in these areas while increasing visibility.”

Ashby walked through the website, showing the design put in place in April. I’ve covered much of it already so I won’t repeat any here.

Societies need more visibility. He walked through some ways of making your society more visible. Webinars can draw a lot of interest. Social media can give visibility. Ashby showed the California Genealogical Society and Library’s Pinterest board and the National Genealogical Society’s YouTube channel. These can generate an amazing amount of visibility. Ashby’s own Google Genealogist YouTube presentation has over 23,000 views.

Societies need more unity. He gave examples of FamilySearch indexing partnerships that have unified societies and told us about three initiatives FamilySearch is pushing:,, and Hispanic records.

He said that helping author the FamilySearch Wiki can unify societies.

He said that societies can partner with RootsTech to hold local family history fairs. (I talk about that in another article.)

Market Segmentation Records MapSocieties need to publish more. He talked about all the publishing that FamilySearch is doing. He showed a slide showing that FamilySearch is considering new record types for different market segments. (Click on the image to the right to enlarge it. Sorry about the blur; blame my tremors.)

He showed a slide listing these types:

  • Photos with strong metadata
  • Obituary collections
  • Yearbooks
  • Newspapers
  • Paper compiled genealogies (not in book form)

If your society has an obituary collection, talk to FamilySearch about indexing it. FamilySearch is moving into obituaries and newspapers. OCR isn’t sufficient to make these highly accessible; they need to be indexed.

Earlier this year FamilySearch indexed their first photo collection. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah was indexed in eight hours, processed the next day, and published in a couple of weeks.

#FGS2013: Community Trees: A Win-Win Project for Societies

I attended the full set of FamilySearch sponsored lectures during Society Day at the 2013 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This was the first:

FamilySearch Community TreesDavid S. Barss presented a session titled, “Community Trees: A Win-Win Project for Societies.” Barss is the FamilySearch project manager for the Community Trees Project.

Before beginning, Barss mentioned that FamilySearch is offering societies a resource associated with RootsTech. FamilySearch is looking for interested societies to host a local family history fair in 2014. FamilySearch will provide turnkey tools: an online registration platform, training helps, and communication materials. It will also provide recordings of classes and sessions from the 2014 RootsTech conference. Interested societies can contact FamilySearch at the RootsTech booth.

BTW, Paul Nauta mentioned Tuesday night that RootsTech registration opens this week (Thursday, I think). Visit

Barss defined a community tree as a locality-based, lineage-linked, sourced, genealogy database. It is an attempt to identify everyone in a community. A community can be any size, such as a town, a state, or a country. It can be an ethnic or religious group.

A community tree is a great resource for societies to preserve their records and make them more accessible. Merging all the records for a community, say census records or county histories, can produce extended, lineage linked trees showing how the members of the community are interrelated.

The stages of a society project are: decide what you want to do, determine the locality and scope, identify resources, recruit coordinators and volunteers, extract the data, merge it, and publish it.

Volunteers like to see results. Assign them small pieces and publish updates regularly. To facilitate merging, use standards for name, date, and place entry. Estimate dates and places when missing, noting that they are estimates. This helps the merge process a lot. Validate with primary sources (i.e. sources of primary information). Consider approaching FamilySearch for guidance, merging, and publication.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Family History Library Concepts, Director

Diane L. Loosle is the new director of the Salt Lake City Family History LibraryThe Salt Lake City Family History Library has a new director and new concepts are coming for the library and FamilySearch family history centers.

These were two of the topics covered in the FamilySearch blogger dinner and briefing held Tuesday night before the start of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2013 annual conference.

Diane C. Loosle is the new director of the Family History Library. “Not only is she the first female director of the library, she is one of the most qualified and capable to ever serve in this position,” said Don Anderson, FamilySearch Senior Vice President.

Loosle says one of her top priorities is to take the Family History Library and its 4,700 family history centers and make them discovery centers for people of all ages. “We need to offer fun experiences and activities for the entire family that will increase love, appreciation, and understanding of their ancestors,” said Loosle.

“The Family History Library and our centers…will be more youth and family oriented,” she said. “They’ll be multimedia rich and interactive and try and introduce people to family history and discovering their story in a really fun and engaging way.”

Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, said we’ll hear FamilySearch talking about “heart turning experiences.”

Example floor plan of a Family History Discovery CenterNauta showed an example floor plan for a “Family History Discovery Center.”

“We will, in the next 12 months, launch probably three if not five of these very interactive discovery centers,” he said. “We can’t tell you where. Stay tuned.” (As I recall, those who attended the BYU conference heard Dennis Brimhall mention two possible locations.)

One feature of discovery centers is an oral history studio, according to Nauta. Patrons reserve the studio for one hour to interview a relative or recite their own history. They pay $8, which covers the price of the flash drive they receive with the recorded interview. FamilySearch does not keep a copy of the interview, but provides the capability as a service. They are working on site features that would allow future interviews to be saved onto the FamilySearch website.

Three oral history studios are already in operation. According to the FamilySearch wiki, one is in San Diego, one is in Riverton, Utah, and one is in Logan, Utah.

Another new service of family history centers will be photo scanning, said Nauta. Agreements have already been made with equipment providers to supply scanners. The scanners will digitize a stack of differently-sized photos and upload them to your FamilySearch account. You can then go back, tag the people, and attach them to Family Tree.

“You can’t attract a younger audience and offer the same experiences,” said Loosle.

Diane Loosle is a 19-year veteran of FamilySearch. She began her career as a research consultant, then led patron services initiatives, the development of the FamilySearch Wiki, and free training content on She is an accredited genealogist and holds an MBA.

According to Nauta, more information about discovery centers will be given later in the week in a presentation by Merrill White. You can bet I’ll be there to cover the presentation for you. Stay tuned.

For Librarians Only

2013-08-20 11.03.27The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2013 annual conference was preceded Tuesday by an event called Librarians Day. Librarians Day is held before most FGS, NGS (and many ALA) conferences.

Kris W. Rzepczynski gave the keynote presentation, “Collaboration is Not Just a Buzz Word: Building and Preserving Your Collections.” Rzepczynski works for the Archives of Michigan where his self-described title is “Point Person for All Things Genealogy.”

The Michigan State Library once possessed one of the nation’s top ten genealogy collections. It was almost lost.

The collapse of the auto industry in the state of Michigan affected the entire state. When economies go backward, culture and art institutions, including those genealogical, are an easy target for budget reductions. In 2009 the governor eliminated the State Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. In 2010 the governor ordered a reduction in the scope of the state library and the divestiture of the non-Michigan portion of its genealogy collection.

In the midst of this crisis the Michigan Genealogical Council organized “Hands Around the Library,” an event showing support for the state Library of Michigan. (See Shirley Gage Hodges’s article about the event.)

Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library lent his support by testifying to the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention Board about the tourism and economic benefit of a genealogical collection.

In 2012 a collaboration was worked out whereby the Archives of Michigan would take the library’s non-Michigan genealogical collection, the Abrams Foundation Historical Collection. The grand opening of the collection was held at the Archives of Michigan on 5 January 2013. Both the library and archive are located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center, keeping all the records under the same roof (albeit with different operating hours).

Rzepczynski related some of the lessons learned through this crisis and its resolution:

  • Maintain friendships with local genealogy organizations.
  • Provide a unified voice dispelling misinformation.
  • Evangelize the value of your genealogy collection with the public and with policy makers.
  • Have an online presence.
  • Utilize social networking. (See the Archives of Michigan at, @seekingmichigan on Twitter, and Michigan Genealogy on Facebook.)

Through this, the Archives of Michigan ended up with the best of two worlds: original records and published sources.

Okay. Maybe this post is not entirely for librarians. Rzepczynski mentioned a couple of collaborative projects they have underway with FamilySearch that are of general interest.

FamilySearch has 1.6 million records online in its collection, “Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952.” The Archives of Michigan will publish this index along with images on its website ( Images cannot be published until 75 years after death, so initially images will be published through 1938. Each year another year of records will be published.

Perhaps the number one genealogical resource at the Archives of Michigan is their collection of naturalization records for most counties of Michigan. They are partnering with FamilySearch to index them. The Archives of Michigan will then publish index and images on

Librarians Day is sponsored by ProQuest. Bill Forsyth addressed us during lunch (which ProQuest supplied). I’d like to mention a couple of online resources he mentioned. One is a document titled, “Key differences between and Ancestry Library Edition.” The other was a set of lesson plans produced by for teachers. It is tied to national standards. ProQuest has made the set available for download as a ZIP file. Unfortunately, the URL I wrote down does not work and has not posted and linked to the lessons on their site. Perhaps ProQuest or could leave a comment to this post giving a working URL. has a page on their website that links to an example lesson plan for biography. But that’s the extent I could locate.

Librarians day was held at the Allen County Public Library, who cosponsored the event. To subscribe to their informative monthly ezine, Genealogy Gems, go to their website (, click on E-zine, and fill out the form. Subscribe to their blog at Follow news and program reminders by becoming a fan at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Attaching Records to FamilySearch Family Tree

From the tree side of FamilySearch, it is possible to launch a search on the records side. Click on “Search Records” in the Research Help box. It is located on the right hand side below the Print box and above the change history. The feature apparently fills in first name, last name, birth year, and birth place, and launches the search.

FamilySearch Family Tree link to search records

Conversely, from the record side it is possible to add a source on the tree side.

At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch talked about attaching records to FamilySearch Family Tree. If you are logged in when viewing a record detail page there is a button on the right labeled “Attach to Family Tree.”

The Attach to Family Tree button

When selected, searches Family Tree for possible matches. If correct, select one of the possible matches.

Popup showing matches from tree

If the correct person is not listed, there are several options for finding them. You can click “Search Family Tree” and specify your own search parameters. Or you can click History List and select the person from among recently viewed persons. Or you can enter the person’s ID.

Once a person is selected, displays the information from the tree for comparison with the record:

Popup showing information from the tree

This popup also allows you to specify the reason for attaching the source.

Once the record is attached to the tree, the attach button is replaced with a link which takes you directly to the person in the tree.

Link to view person in family tree to which the record is attached

The Attach to Family Tree button is not available for images. However, images can be saved to the source box and subsequently attached to a person.

External Sources

Kehrer also demonstrated attaching a source from another website, He used a record from What I found most interesting was the concept of copying and pasting the four fields directly from the page.

The four fields of a FamilySearch Family Tree source could be copied directly from an record

The four fields of a FamilySearch Family Tree source

I’m not certain I’ve presented number 4 the way he did. Another approach would be to divide what I’ve marked as number 3 on the, placing the original data source into number 3 and the first part of the citation into number 4.

The URL (number 2) can be pretty hairy. To simplify it, save the record to your shoebox, then click on the record in the shoebox. The resulting URL is much, much simpler.

A severe limitation of FamilySearch sources is the lack of italics. When the citation is copied and pasted from, the italics are lost.

As a class member pointed out, only those with an subscription will be able to see the source on You may wish to make a note to that effect in either section 3 or 4. Kehrer pointed out that is available in family history centers, the Family History Library, and some local libraries. Be prepared to edit the URL to adapt it from one to another. Here’s the way the first part of the URL will look.

  • – Use this form for personal subscriptions. I don’t know if still the case, but I think it is also used on the BYU campus wireless.
  • – Use at participating libraries and institutions.
  • – Use at the Family History Library. I think this is also the address used at a Family History Center.

FamilySearch is working on several features that will make saving source citations easier, according to Kehrer. Soon it will be possible to link an uploaded image of a source to the citation. FamilySearch is working on a bookmarklet that would simplify creating a source citation for another website page. FamilySearch is working on a way to easily create sources for all the members of a census household.

Having sources and citing them is fundamental to genealogy. In a shared tree like FamilySearch Family Tree, it is absolutely essential. FamilySearch has made it much easier with the latest features on

#FGS2013 is Come

The Ancestry Insider is an FGS 2013 ambassadorThe Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2013 annual conference gets underway Wednesday this week in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. If you are in the area, it is not too late to attend. Walk in registration begins today (Tuesday) at 3:00pm. If I understand correctly, a full Wednesday-to-Saturday registration costs 240 and a single-day costs $100.

Registration will be open:

  • Tuesday 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday 7 a.m.-10 a.m. & 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • Thursday 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Friday 7:30 a.m.-10 a.m.
  • Saturday 7:30 a.m.-10 a.m.

Also, don’t forget the free exhibit hall.

“The exhibit hall at FGS 2013 will be filled with genealogy vendors and societies showcasing the latest software, books, maps, databases and gadgets,” according to Tina Lyons of the FGS Conference News Blog. Come see the latest and greatest and learn about special, conference pricing.

The Exhibit Hall hours are

  • Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Saturday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 

If you can’t make it during business hours, stop by on Thursday evening when the exhibits are open until 7:30pm.

A directory of exhibitors is available online as well as a map of the exhibition hall.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Searching Successfully to Reveal Your Ancestor’s Story

At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Crista Cowan gave a presentation titled, “Searching Successfully to Reveal Your Ancestor’s Story.” Cowan “the Barefoot Genealogist” at She has a live internet show every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 11:00 AM mountain time. You can watch it live or archived at Archived episodes are also available at Cowan has been with for nine-and-a-half years.

Cowan began with a couple of points. has a privacy rule. Living people are considered private. People are considered living as long as birth dates are within the last 100 years and there is nothing in the death date field. (I wonder what put “living” in the death date field does? In FamilySearch Family Tree, having anything in the death date field, including “living” makes the system assume the person is dead and no longer private.)

It is a good idea to sync your tree with Family Tree Maker (FTM). That way you can keep a copy of your database and all images and documents on your desktop computer. Asked by a class member, Cowan said that you can’t sync between your Tree and FamilySearch Family Tree or any other desktop tree besides FTM.

Shaky Leaves has a feature colloquially called Shaky Leaves. Shaky Leaves are suggestions of records that might match individuals in your tree. Actually called “hints,” the name Shaky Leaves has been so popular that employees call their onsite eatery the “Shaky Leaf Café.” provides hints to the top 10% of their databases as a way to get people started in their discoveries. Hints come with some cautions. They are just hints. Look at records first, skipping Ancestry Family Trees. Use other family trees as clues, not facts. Look to see which have sources. Since 90% of collections are not hinted, don’t stop after reviewing your hints. Search for additional records.

“Want better results?” asked Cowan. “Show the advanced search form.” The home page search box is as simple as possible to not scare away first time visitors. “I hope that you are not using this search form. If you are, don’t.” Click Advanced, or click Search in the menu. Then click Show Advanced. Your choice is sticky and will be remembered the next time you visit.

In advanced mode, under every field there is a search filter. Different kinds of fields have different filters.

Name Filters advanced search form name filterFilters available for names are Default and Exact. The Exact setting has some additional options: phonetic matches, similar meanings, and matching initials. Any or all of these can be specified. If I understand how it works, the Default setting acts as if all of these are set.

Cowan’s grandfather was always called “Junior.” He thought his name was Frederick, but it was actually Fred. As simple as the name Fred if, it was often spelled Fredrick, Frederick, Frederich, Freddie, or Freddy.

The Default setting will match all of these as well as F.

If Exact is set, Fred will match only Fred. (The remaining examples I determined by trial and error. I hope I got them right.)

If Exact is set with Phonetic, Fred will match Fred, Freddy, Freddie, and others, like Freda, but not Fredrick, Frederick, or Frederich.

If Exact is set with Similar, Fred will match Fred, Fredrick, Frederick, Frederich, but not Freddie or Freddy.

If Exact is set with Initials, Fred will match Fred and F.

Wildcards can be used. Using the asterisk wildcard, Fred* will match all of the list, while Frederic? will match only Frederich and Frederick. (Cowan said that to activate wildcards, change the filter to “Restrict to exact.” I don’t think you have to do this. If you specify a wildcard, the search will be exact, even if the default setting is selected.)

To use wildcards, you must have at least three consecutive characters and can’t have wildcards at both beginning and ending of the name.

Year Filter

Cowan wouldn’t set year to exact. It might be wrong on records or transcribed incorrectly. The person might have lied. The recorder might have rounded to nearest multiple of 5. Or it might be necessary for you to estimate birth year from age. And if you mark birth year exact, will not return records without a birth year. advanced search form Location filtersLocation Filters

Cowan warned that you may not want to set birth place exact. Boundaries change, etc. If you specify a city like San Francisco, then you won’t get any census records since they don’t specify city.

You can also set the filter to restrict to county, adjacent county, state, adjacent state, or country. (To use these settings, you must select the place from the dropdown list when you enter it.)

For a first search, Cowan will typically specify “Lived In” and restrict to state. This is for a first search. She doesn’t often use Exact.

To set all the filters to default, click the Match All Exactly checkbox twice.

Other Advanced Controls advanced search form Collection Priority and Restrict To controlsThe advanced search form has a Collection Priority control which can restrict results to collections from a particular country or ethnicity. This setting is “sticky.” That is, it is remembered from one session to another, so be mindful when you use it.

It also has a control which can restrict to results to record types: historical records, family trees, stories and publications, and photos & maps. This setting is also sticky.


You can quickly scan through the top records if you know a lot about the person. “Never go through a page or two,” said Cowan. “If what you want is not coming up in the first couple of pages, redo your search.”

You can also view results by Categories instead of ranked records. Above the first result, on the right, click on Categories or Records.

Cowan likes using browser tabs. When viewing a list of results, you can right click on a result to open it in a new tab. (In Firefox I use ctrl-click to the same effect.) Leave this tab open. Then its easy to compare the record to another record.

Cowan like to transcribe (or extract) records. This forces you to pay attention to the information in the records and the entire record.

As an aside, check out the new image viewer. It makes it easy to extract the information. You can zoom in and it shows row and column headers.

The latest viewer displays row and column headers when zoomed in

Put the extracts in a chronological list. It is not quite a story, but pretty close. Think about additional collections that will add to the story. Some collections are not name indexed. Consider them as well. Maps are an example.

Using these search controls and the records on you can reveal your ancestor’s story.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Harnessing the Power of Online Family Trees

Harnessing the Power of Online Family TreesAt the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Anna Fechter gave a presentation titled “Harnessing the Power of Online Family Trees.” Fechter is the Community Operations Manager at She has worked at for nine years on a variety of products and is currently managing the World Archives Project. Anna has been involved in family history research for 25 years.

“I believe in all things shared and public,” Fechter said. “Some people have wrong stuff [in their trees]. I get that. That’s why you verify.” However, you won’t get the full benefit from trees unless you share, she said.

In Tree Settings trees can be made public or private. Public trees can be seen by subscribers and by others invited by the tree owner. Information about living people is automatically hidden. Private trees can be seen only by those invited by the tree owner. Private Trees are indexed and limited information (name, birth year, and birth place) is shown in search results. This behavior can be disabled so no information is ever disclosed.

Trees can be shared with specific, other people, even if they are not subscribers. (Trees are a free feature.) Invitations can be sent via email, username, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or AOL Mail. Invitees can be given various levels of access: guest, contributor, or editor. A guest can view the tree and leave comments. A contributor can also add stories and photos. An editor can do anything you can do, including adding, editing, or deleting people. (I think they can even delete the tree.) You can withhold information about living individuals from guests and contributors.

Hints—so-called shaky leaves—alert you to both matching records and matches in other people’s trees. Not everyone feels there is value in knowing about tree-to-tree hinting. Tree-to-tree hinting can be turned off in Site Preferences; shaky leaves will be shown for historical record matches only.

At the top of each page is a leaf overlaid with the number of hints in all your trees that have not been reviewed. This can be turned off altogether or on a per-tree basis. You can also set contact preferences to limit how people can contact you: through e-mail address, anonymously through Ancestry’s online message service, or not at all.

In Site Preferences > Activity Preferences you can set what other members can learn about your activity. Two options are available: “Things I publicly add or post to the site,” and “Personal research activities.”

The Recent Activity page on the Member Connect tab of a person page allows you to see what other members’ are doing in their research. The Suggested Connections page shows information others have about the person, some of which you may not have known before. Once connected, you will be notified when new content is added to their tree for that person. Click the username to see how to contract them. (The “Last Log in” date is inaccurate. They’re working on that.)

All these capabilities help users harness the power of’s online family trees.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hidden Treasures at

Loretta “Lou” Dennis Szucs At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Loretta “Lou” Dennis Szucs of presented a session titled “Hidden Treasure at” I must say, of all the hidden treasures at, Lou is the greatest. She was probably the most prestigious genealogist at the conference and there she was giving an ordinary presentation. I wasn’t about to miss it. See “Loretto "Lou" Dennis Szucs” for a seven paragraph listing of her many accomplishments and honors. She is currently vice president of community relations for And she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Truly’s greatest hidden treasure.

“Our people are more than names and dates and places,” she said. “They run in our blood and in our DNA.” now has 11 billion records and is adding more every day. The home page has a section that shows the more recently added and updated databases. Click “View all new records” to see more.

The What's Happening at section of the home page

The key is to zero in on the records you need, she said. One method of zeroing in is to click the search menu, scroll down, and click a state (or division of another country) on the map. This leads to a space that lists databases with content covering that state.

The card catalog is another way to zero in on particular databases. When using the catalog, there are two search fields. Don’t use the title field unless you know the exact title. Instead, use the keyword field.’s member trees now number over 50 million with 170 million attached photos, stories, and documents.

“I made my tree public,” she said, “and someone spotted it and she wrote to me and said I notice you don’t have any pictures [of so-and-so]. I have a picture. Would you like to have it?” Making your tree public might lead to treasures for you.

The learning center is a hidden treasure. You can download charts for free and there are all kinds of getting started helps.

It is also possible to search by category. Click on Search and then use the categories along the right side of the page.

Szucs talked about non-population census schedules. These can add a variety of interesting facts about an ancestor. “We often overlook the fact of looking at the big picture,” she said.

Records of vital events can be found in unexpected places. The ship Liverpool arrived in New York in March 1849. Of the 416 passengers who left England, 37 would die before reaching the American shore.

37 passengers died on the Liverpool in 1849

“The stories around these records are so compelling,” Szucs said.

Szucs talked about many individual databases. “In these little tiny collections that don’t surface right away you might find gold.”

In closing she said, “Ancestry’s aim is to preserve family history records across the globe, and to make them searchable online.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Scan Your Books and Photographs For Free at #FGS2013

FamilySearch recently announced that the number of books they have posted online has hit 100,000! According to FamilySearch, over 100,000 is also the number of people that use its online collection each month.

The Ancestry Insider is an FGS 2013 ambassadorIn the same announcement, FamilySearch extended an offer to FGS conference attendees and anyone else in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area to bring their genealogy books and photographs to the Allen County Public Library to be scanned for free. Said FamilySearch,

One word of caution—permission must be obtained from the author or copyright holder before copyrighted books or photos can be scanned. (Most books that were published before 1923 are in the public domain and do not require permission.)

Search the FamilySearch online genealogy library by going to, clicking Search at the top of the page, followed by Books. The majority of the books are family histories, but there are also local and county histories, cemetery records, magazines, how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval pedigrees.

FamilySearch obtained the collection by scanning its own collection as well as books from partner institutions, including the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana who is also a sponsor of this year’s conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, also in Fort Wayne this year.

Your scanned books will be added to the online library. FamilySearch is especially interested in

  • Autobiographies and biographies containing genealogical material
  • Family histories with genealogical information
  • Indexes to records
  • Local and county histories
  • Yearbooks

Bring your books to the scanning center of the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center during normal library hours, starting Monday, August 19th and running through Saturday at 3:00pm. Bring your photographs starting Wednesday, August 21st. Books can be any size, but photographs must be no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches. FamilySearch encourages you to bring your items earlier than later.

According to FamilySearch’s Rose of Sharon Gribble (yes, she’s named after the Grapes of Wrath character) the inclusion of journals and yearbooks is a recent change. Gribble made the remarks at the recent 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. She also said that the collection does contain some copyrighted books owned by FamilySearch. Copyrighted book can only be viewed at family history centers (FamilySearch centers). The process works like checking out a book. While you are viewing the book, no one else can view it until you are finished, said Gribble. The system identifies where the physical book is located.

Scanning is being done at the Salt Lake City Family History Library, the Allen County Public Library, Brigham Young University (BYU), BYU Idaho, the Houston Public Library, the Mid-Continent Public Library, and at FamilySearch centers in Ogden, Pocatello, Las Vegas, Mesa, Sacramento, and Orange, California. Expansion is planned domestically and internationally, including the British Isles next year, said Gribble. They also plan to increase the size of their non-English collection. If I understood correctly, FamilySearch has started using scanners supplied by the Internet Archive, operating them by FamilySearch volunteers. FamilySearch is adding about 1,000 books each week, according to Gribble.

The project was launched in 2004. BYU provided the website, support, and expertise, said Gribble. iArchives, former owner provided something, but I didn’t quite understand what. After a two year pilot, they decided to continue the program. The collection became the most used archive in the BYU online collection. In 2010 they had 17,700 books online and reached the capacity of the BYU systems. On February 1st, 2012, they launched the current site on

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Collection Coverage - Again

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

Following last week’s letter about FamilySearch’s lack of collection coverage information about its collections, I received the response below from FamilySearch.

--The Ancestry Insider

Dear Ancestry Insider and all who are interested in obtaining up-to-date indexed/extracted data content in the FamilySearch system:

For more effectively finding available online British data content--keeping Hugh Wallis' and great websites in mind--one of the very best ways to obtain up-to-the-moment info on whether a parish or chapelry (in especially England) has been indexed/extracted is to take the following very  simple approach:

1) Go to FamilySearch

2) click "Search"

3) place curser in the "Place name" text box for i.e. "Births" or "Death" or "Marriage"

4) merely (but correctly as possible) type in the name of the parish or chapelry name

5) click "Search"


6) test by restricting/testing ranges of years as desired to determine precisely which years have data content are available online. Because we are adding content daily, it is extremely difficult to peg any point in time what FamilySearch has actually recently indexed (in the British realm of records) vs. what's not--unless you apply this approach.

The above will not work for large townships and cities, like i.e. "Manchester", "London", Birmingham, etc. You must know the exact or specific parish or chapelry within each city. Hint: go the FamilySearch online catalog and obtain the precise spelling of parish or chapelry names, such as "St Ann[e] Manchester", or "St Ann Blackfriars" (London). Note: Sometimes the system requires you to spell out a place i.e. S-a-i-n-t Ann Manchester, and etc.

Also, keep in mind that the FamilySearch Wiki is currrently constructing England parish links to online data content which provides researchers with some powerful links to online data content from not only FamilySearch, but from other major iconic websites such as Lancashire Online Parish Clerk (7m entries), and (~2m entries and quickly growing!) and others. For example, see each of Lancashire's parishes or chapelry pages, under Lancashire "Parish" (and Chapelry) pages. Here's the Liverpool St Peter & St Nicholas Parish. Lancashire is mostly completed for now; Yorkshire is approaching completion and Greater London is populated with numerous available links to online data content from especially, and FinMyPast, etc.

Hope the above steps are helpful to those researching especially in the UK (these steps should also work for much of Scandinavia, and many other countries around the world).   

Phil Dunn
Sr British Consultant

Dear Phil,

Thanks for the information.

--The Ancestry Insider

Saturday, August 10, 2013 Publishes 1921 Canadian Census Images

The 1921 Census of Canada is now available on has privately disclosed that it has released—images at least—the 1921 Canada Census. The census enumerated a population of 8.8 million Canadians, according to

“This [new] database contains images of the Sixth Census of Canada,” said, “which was taken in 1921 and has just been released to the public after a 92-year privacy period.” is working on a searchable, every-name index. In the meantime, you can browse the images for free. The database is available on all Ancestry.* websites, including and

Viewing the census may be free, but you will have to register for an account. In practice, I’ve found that to be a safe thing to do. Some of you remember the days long ago when e-mail was so prolific it was regularly thrown away by spam filters. Those days are long gone and emails can be turned on or off in your email preferences. Click on your username at the top of the page and then Email Settings.

Once you are on the 1921 Census of Canada database page, look in the right-hand column for the box titled “Browse this collection. Select a province using the dropdown list. Then choose district and sub-district. When you select the sub-district, if you are not yet logged in, you will be given a chance to register for a free account.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Effective FamilySearch Search Techniques – Part 4

At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch presented a session titled “Effective Search Techniques and Sound Research Practices.”

Find All the Children

To search for all the children of a couple, enter just parents.

Kehrer demonstrated with a family from his ancestry. Isadore and Mary Allor lived in Michigan, where all their children were born. He left the first and last name fields blank—so any child would match. He restricted records by location to the United States and specified Michigan as the birthplace. He entered ?sadore Allor as the father. (Through experience, he has learned that the name Isadore is often misspelled or misindexed as Esadore.) He entered Mary as the mother.

Search for all the children of a couple

The results list the correct children at the very top of the results: Martha, Viola, Elmer, Frankie, Lillie, and Eddie.

Census Search

It is often helpful to trace an individual through all census years. Before Kehrer starts searching, he likes to first list out what he expects to find about that individual. He took ancestor Franklin Bernard Allor as an example. Franklin was born in 1884 in Michigan where he lived his whole life. He married Ellen (or Nellie) Fitten. He would expect to find:

1890 Age 6 No census
1900 Age 16 Probably living with parents, Isadore and Marie
1910 Age 26 Probably married, living with wife Ellen (or Nellie)
1920 Age 36 With wife Ellen (or Nellie)
1930 Age 46 With wife Ellen (or Nellie)
1940 Age 56 With wife Ellen (or Nellie)

Kehrer searched for Franklin Allor, born 1883-1885 (to leave wiggle room for census errors) to get an initial list of 292 results. Filtering the residence place to the U.S. gave 30 results. Additionally, filtering to Michigan gave five results. I think Kehrer further filtered Collections to Censuses, yielding four results. The results correctly identify Frank as expected in all censuses except 1910.

To further investigate the 1910 census, Kehrer did a single-collection search ( > Search > Browse All Published CollectionsUnited States Census, 1910). Here you begin the iterative trial and error approach to find your guy. Kehrer didn’t cover how to do that. (I’ve attended hour long presentations on that topic all its own.) He found that changing Allor to All* found Frank, misindexed as Allar.

Next time, attaching records to the tree…

Deadline for Online Registration Approaching Quickly

The Ancestry Insider is an FGS 2013 ambassadorThe Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) has announced that the deadline for registration of the 2013 annual conference is coming quickly. Online registration ends Wednesday, August 14th. The conference begins on August 21st. Here is the complete text of their announcement:

FGS 2013 Online Registration Ends in One Week

If you haven’t registered for the FGS 2013 Conference yet, you still have time to register online, by mail or at the door. Mailed registrations must be postmarked by Friday, August 9. Online registration ends on Wednesday, August 14th. Pre-registering for the conference gives you access to some great benefits.
And don't forget, if you have already registered for the conference, you still have time to get your tickets to the conference "extras."
Only attendees who preregister for the conference can:

  • Access the conference syllabus online prior to the conference.
  • Guarantee a spot in the "extra" conference events (on-site tickets may be available to events if they have not sold out):
    • 10 luncheons over the 4 conference days. 
    • 5 workshops over 3 days. There is still room in the Researching African Americans in University Libraries workshop. We have also added extra spaces and still have a few seats left Researching Midwestern American Indians and Using Griffith’s Valuation to Identify Your Ancestors' Origins. The other workshops are sold out. 
    • FGS Opening Social on Wednesday, August 21
    • Friday Night at ACPL on August 23 with all proceeds going to the Preserve the Pensions Fund! 
    • Sunday Farewell Brunch with lots of door prizes.
  • Register for a FREE genealogy consultation on Tuesday, August 20. You must sign up for a consultation in advance. See for details.

You can also purchase extra tickets (except for workshops) for your non-genealogy spouses or friends who traveled with you to the conference.
Visit to register or add "extras" today. We hope to see you in Fort Wayne, August 21-24.