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.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

FamilySearch Working on New Indexing Program

In a recent invitation for test volunteers, FamilySearch disclosed a little more about their plans for its Indexing program. “Next year an all-new, browser-based indexing program will replace the current seven-year-old system,” they said.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

FamilySearch Adds Docs, PDF, Larger Files

Adding to its support for photographs, FamilySearch recently added support for documents, PDF files, and larger file sizes.

Navigation bar of the Photos section of

With the addition of PDF files, photographs can now be .jpg, .png, or .pdf files. File size can be 15 MB, up from five. Some users have already used the photograph feature to upload images of documents. (I’ll confess. I’m one of them.) Now documents are officially supported.

In the Photos section of, FamilySearch has added “Documents” to the navigation bar. Document upload, viewing, and tagging is handled almost exactly like photographs. The same file types and size apply. Like photographs, documents can be shared. While tags are circular on photographs—making it easy to encircle a face or head—they are rectangular on documents—making it easy to enclose a name.

The Details option of the photo viewer contains the Document checkboxFor those like me who jumped the gun, photographs can be converted to documents—and vice versa. In the photo viewer, click on Details, then check the Document check box underneath Delete This Photo. (See the image to the right.)

I generally recommend against using PDF files for archival storage. However, they are a convenient mechanism for keeping multi-page documents together. Viewing PDF files is integrated into the image viewer (see an example), which is nice.

Note that the document feature is officially in beta, so there are bound to be rough edges.

I consider the lack of TIFF files a major limitation. I’ve contributed a few photographs, but I’m mostly holding out for TIFF support so that I don’t have to scan my photos and documents twice.

On the other hand, I have a fair number of documents photographed in archives. My camera saves only in JPG format. Thanks to document support, I’ll be uploading them now to

Attachment of photos or documents to sources is still coming soon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Serendipity in a Little Booklet

Public Archives of Nova ScotiaAnn Amadori lives in Virginia but her grandmother came from Nova Scotia. Ann’s cousin had visited Halifax and found a wonderful library where she thought there might be more information about the family. For most of the 1980s Ann tried to convince her family that Nova Scotia was a fun vacation destination. (Sound familiar?) It was a hard sell to her daughters in their late teens and early twenties who had no interest in genealogy.

Finally in 1990 she convinced them to make the long, two and a half day drive. The last day of the visit, they dropped her off at the library in the morning. She had until 4:00pm before they would pick her up. By 3:45 she had exhausted everything she could think of checking but had had no success.

She returned to the area in front of the librarian’s desk to wait for her family. With nothing to do, on a whim she started to browse the materials on the counter. There she found a little booklet containing advertisements from people looking for genealogical information. One caught her eye. Tom Murray was looking for information about descendants of Daniel Murray. Daniel Murray and Barbara McDonald were the names of her great grandparents! Could it be her Daniel Murray?

Her family arrived and they returned to the hotel room. There she called the man. He was delighted and she learned it was her Murray family! Better yet, the man had put together a family history of the Murrays. He sent her a copy and it filled in many gaps in her genealogy.

Big things came from one little booklet, picked up on a whim at the end of a non-productive research trip, two and a half days away from home.

Sources: Two e-mails from Ann Amadori, Virginia, ([e-mail addresses for private use]), to the Ancestry Insider, (, dated 7 August 2008 and 12 October 2013, both titled “Serendipity”; privately held by the Ancestry Insider.