Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nobody Told Me – #BYUgen #BYUFHGC

image“It’s the stories that we remember,” Paul Milner said. Paul delivered the Thursday keynote at the 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. Paul is a native of England and a noted expert on British Isles research. He has authored six books on English and Scottish research.

Paul began by quoting from the novel Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. One of the characters, Elizabeth Benson, was driving through the French countryside, trying to comprehend World War I. As she drove she saw something odd.

Through the fields to her right Elizabeth saw a peculiar, ugly arch that sat among the crops and woods. … it was made of brick or stone on a monumental scale. It was as though the Pantheon or the Arc de Triomphe had been dumped in a meadow.

She entered the huge structure and was struck to find that every surface was chiseled with names. She asked a man there who they were.

“These?” The man with the brush sounded surprised. “The lost.”

“Men who died in this battle?”

“No. The lost, the ones they did not find. The others are in the cemeteries.”

She looked at the vault above her head and then around in panic at the endless writing. … When she could speak again she said, “From the whole war?” The man shook his head. “Just these fields.”

“Nobody told me.” … “Nobody told me.”

clip_image002 The Thiepval Memorial names 72,000 men of the British Empire who died in the Battle of Somme whose remains were never identified.

“Why does it matter to me?” Paul asked. “Corporal Robert Finnegan, my mother’s uncle’s name is listed on that monument.” Paul related the story of the first day of the battle. It began 100 years ago on 1 July 1916. The battle resulted in the death of two of his granduncles. (See Paul’s blog article, “Remembering those who died on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916.”)

Paul encouraged us to find the soldiers on our trees.

“We all have stories to tell. They don’t have to be big and fancy,” he said.

Paul told us the story of his first 4th of July celebration in this country. (“That’s not a holiday I would normally be celebrating,” he joked.) It had snowed the day before. We all have family celebrations and traditions. Have we told those stories?

Paul told the story of how a northern English lad ended up living in America. “Have you told your children why you came to this place?”

Paul related his long faith journey. “Part of your mandate [as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] is to find out about your ancestors. But do you tell your faith story as well?”

You all have stories and the Church is making it easy for you to tell those stories, he said.

“Do you tell those stories, or are your grandchildren going to be like Elizabeth. ‘Nobody told me. Nobody told me.’”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Turning the Model Upside Down #BYUgen #BYUFHGC

Steve Rockwood addresses the 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and GenealogyFamilySearch wants to turn upside down the usual order in which people engage in family history, said Steve Rockwood in his keynote address at the 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.

Steve is president and chief executive officer (CEO) of FamilySearch International. He is the managing director of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors FamilySearch.

Steve said in the past we presented people with a chart or a computer to start them in family history. Those that were willing to stay with it long enough eventually experienced the positive emotions associated with family history. In the Church today, that amounts to 2% of the members.

“We want everyone to feel those emotions [they experience] through the act of doing family history,” Steve said. “We believe that this is primarily an emotional movement.” He said doing family history brings feelings of love, joy, peace and other strong positive emotions. (The Church ascribes these to the Holy Ghost, he said. He pointed us to Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesian 5:9 in the New Testament.)

“We are concentrating on how everyone can experience and feel those emotions.” By giving them immediate, emotional experiences, FamilySearch hopes they then engage in family history. FamilySearch decided to concentrate on stories. “We are serious” [about this change]. Steve said. “We changed our logo, our entire branding.” The FamilySearch logo now looks like a set of picture frames. FamilySearch starts people with photos, audio recordings, anything that anyone can participate in. That makes it an exciting world of change. “Now, more and more people are getting involved in this thing called family history.” For example, FamilySearch has seen a 47% increase in young people involved in family history.

This change can be discomforting to existing genealogists. Steve likened it to the situation when society started shifting from agricultural to urbanized life. Our great-grandparents said things like “How can you learn how to live life if you don’t grow up on a farm?” And “How can you learn the law of the harvest?” Somehow we all turned out okay, even though we didn’t grow up on farms. The same will occur with this change in approaching family history.

Steve assured us that we were still valued and accuracy is still important. “We’re all standing on your shoulders. We honor you and thank you.” We will not compromise on the integrity of the genealogy, he said. It needs to be accurate. “Accuracy is paramount,” he emphasized.

Steve talked about five experience areas, as he did at the last RootsTech. (See “RootsTech is a Gathering of Heart Specialists” on my blog.) One of these is searchable records. “They have to be searchable,” he said. Most people are not willing to wade through microfilm or unindexed images. Steve said FamilySearch is doing all they can do to digitize the films in the vault and hope to be done in three years. But they still need to be made searchable. FamilySearch is doing so by pursuing three strategies: FamilySearch Indexing, commercial partnerships, and automation. If computers can be programmed to index the documents, let them do it.

The Memories experience area will continue to stay core to FamilySearch’s strategy. Steve pointed out that photos and stories that are valuable now will have “unbelievable power” for generations to come.

While we think of Family Discovery today in terms of brick and mortar Discovery Centers, FamilySearch is looking at opening it up to experiences that are less expensive to deploy to almost any family history center, or on your computer screen, or even on your phone. FamilySearch is looking at packaging Family Discovery in new, appealing ways. The idea is to package your tree in a way that gives others an engaging taste of it.

Steve gave some indication of the countries where FamilySearch may be expanding efforts. He said that Lehi in the Book of Mormon sent his sons back to Jerusalem to get a record of their genealogy. “We have to concentrate on the question, ‘Where’s your Jerusalem?’” If it is America or Scandinavia or England, then FamilySearch can give you a pretty good experience. But if your Jerusalem is China or Ghana or most other places, the experience is not as good. He said that because of a partnership with, in five years the experience will be good for those whose Jerusalem is Mexico. Steve said if you ever want to know some places where we are diversifying, listen to the Church’s General Conference and see where the Prophet [Thomas S. Monson] is announcing temples. When that happens, opportunities open up for us, he said. Look where there are 27 temples still under construction. Steve said that 60% of visitors to Temple Square (across the street from the Salt Lake City Family History Library) speak Chinese. What kind of discovery experience can we provide for them?

Steve said that what FamilySearch is doing is trying to bring all of God’s children into family history and providing them records according to their Jerusalem.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

That is Where the Love Is #BYUgen #BYUFHGC

Credit: Ivan Majc, Adriatic North Mission
“As you talk about the ancestors, that is where the love is,” said Paul Cardall. “That is where the heart starts to turn.” Paul has learned this through multiple visits to Slovenia, the homeland of his wife’s family.

The 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy opened this morning, Tuesday, 26 July 2016, with a keynote address by Paul Cardall, a pianist known for his hymn instrumentals.

“Literally, seven years ago I had a change of heart,” said Paul. That’s when Paul, who had suffered all his life from a congenital heart defect, received a transplanted heart.

After marrying Tina, a Slovenian-American, his heart turned to her ancestors. Paul talked to his wife about her family, but she only knew so much. Tina’s grandfather (I think it was her grandfather) was a freedom fighter during World War II, so he was forced to flee to the United States after the war. After scouring and subscription sites like, Paul found there were no records online. He asked a friend, FamilySearch’s Suzanne Russo Adams, what to do. Suzanne connected him with Lidija Sambunjak, an expert in Slovenian genealogy. She informed him that, unfortunately, a lot of the Slovenian records are available nowhere else but in Slovenia.

When invited by Brigham Young University to write music about a documentary about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Yugoslavia, he joked that he would love to do it if they would fly him to Slovenia.

He was delighted when he received a call from the Adriatic North Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints inviting him to come and perform for church members in Slovenia. His wife was excited to accompany him and, being Catholic, asked why they couldn’t perform in a Catholic church. They asked and Father Jože Kokalj in Ljubljana agreed to host the concert at St. James Church.

At the same time, they reached out to the Slovenian Heart Foundation, an organization that helps children with heart defects. What had begun as a Mormon event was becoming something much bigger.

“All of this was happening as I was doing genealogy,” Paul said. Tina was not certain they would see any of her family, but when they arrived at the airport, they found many cousins waiting. Their hearts were turning.

Paul played for us the first several phrases of the opening number from the concert. (Listen to the song on Facebook.) At the concert family showed up that they didn’t know they had. “Just to be there and to feel the love of everyone [was amazing],” Paul said. “Just to be there with these people was wonderful.”

They visited Tina’s mother’s village and met more family.

Six months later Paul and Tina were on their way back to Slovenia for the Slovenian Heart Foundation's 25th anniversary charity concert. The Adriatic North Mission wanted two artists this time, so they invited David Archuleta to perform with Paul. This time he would perform in the Slovenian Opera Theatre and Ljubljana Archbishop Msgr. Stanislav Zore would attend.

Tina’s mother had declined going on the first trip because of lingering fears over the communist past. This time she wanted to come. She was able to visit her village for the first time in 43 years. They went to her own house and found cousins living there. She met family members she hadn’t seen in 43 years. “War tears families apart,” Paul said. “You [genealogists] help put the puzzle back together.”

They visited the archive where the parish registers are kept. Tina’s mother got to see the names of her ancestors. “These books are old,” Paul said. “They are older than the constitution of the United States.” Each book is the record of a parish for a couple of hundred years. “Each priest carefully wrote down the names, one by one. It is so powerful.” Paul told us that we, genealogists, understand. We also add the names, one-by-one, into “the book of life.”

I haven’t mentioned much of it, but religion was a big part of Paul’s presentation: His love for his wife’s church, the Catholic Church. His love for his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His love for the Savior. He finished his presentation by playing a recording of a new hymn. Elder David A Bednar, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and a grandson of Hungarian immigrants, asked Paul to help him write a song titled “One by One.” Paul played a recording of it for us. (Listen to it, read the lyrics, or print the sheet music at

Monday, July 25, 2016

BYU Conference Center Handicap Parking Changes #BYUgen #BYUFHGC

BYU Conference on Family History and GenealogyAttendees of this year’s BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy should be aware of the impact of construction at the conference center. The conference center address is

730 E University Parkway
Provo, Utah 84604

The normal parking lot—adjacent to the center on the west side—is still available, but the normal entrances to the building are closed. The remaining entrance for that parking lot is near the southwest corner of the building and “does not meet ADA requirements.” If memory serves correctly, you have to go up a staircase to get to the door.

Handicap parking has been provided near the main entrance on the south side of the building. That entrance does not involve any stairs and opens onto the main floor of the building where all the classes are held. The parking is southeast of the building, on 1550 North. This handicap parking is in lot 23A, which is normally closed to the general public. If all the handicap spaces are full, BYU says you can use any space in that lot.

Map of BYU Conference Center handicap parking during construction

Also, parts of University Parkway will be under construction at times during the conference. Give yourselves a little extra travel time.

BTW, if you haven’t yet registered (and the travel and parking problems haven’t driven you away), just show up and you can register onsite. The first keynote starts tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 8:30am. I can’t find what time that registration begins, but I imagine it will be 45 to 60 minutes beforehand.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy #BYUgen #BYUFHGC

BYU Conference on Family History and GenealogyThe BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy starts Tuesday, 26 July 2016. If you are thinking about your pioneer ancestors this weekend, then you should come. BYU’s Elizabeth Richards tells me you can register clear through the last day of the conference on Friday, 29 July 2016.

Registration is $185, including a syllabus on USB. There is a $50 discount for Family History Consultants for the full conference. Or Family History Consultants can attend the Consultant track on Friday for free. You may purchase a printed syllabus at the conference or anytime after the conference until the end of the year.
Paul CardallTuesday’s keynote speaker is Paul Cardall, a pianist known for his hymn instrumentals. His current album, 40 Days for Forty Hymns, débuted on Billboard’s New Age Album chart at #1 in May of last year and was still in the top 10 earlier this month. Paul is an avid genealogist with Eastern European roots. He is a heart transplant survivor, having suffered from congenital heart defects his entire life.
Steve RockwoodWednesday’s keynote speaker is FamilySearch president and CEO, Stephen Rockwood. He is the managing director of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to taking the helm he was the director of the International Division. He has continued a world-wide emphasis as president. Steve is a graduate of BYU with an MBA from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Paul MilnerThursday’s keynote is Paul Milner. Paul is a native of northern England and while he now lives in the United States, he continues to focus on British Isles genealogy, resources, and methodology. He is actively engaged in the genealogical community and is a past board member of APG, FGS, and GSG. He is a professional genealogist, instructor, and lecturer.
The conference program includes many noted national and regional experts. Last year’s keynote speaker, Lisa Louise Cooke, is back, teaching five sessions (if I counted right). Paul Milner is teaching five sessions in addition to his keynote. Rick and Pam Sayre are teaching three and two sessions, respectively. And there are many more. FamilySearch and both have tracks. To see a complete list of presenters and topics, visit

Friday, July 22, 2016

Darnedest Political Obituary

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable. Records say the darnedest things!

Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton...

“NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016.”

Yes, records say the darnedest things!

Source: “Noland, Mary Anne,” obituary, Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, online ( : accessed 28 May 2016).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

DNA Versus Extremism

Momodo DNA promotion videoI hear all the time about people testing ethnicity from different companies and getting different results. I’ve heard from a person or two with well documented trees that see some pretty obvious problems in DNA ethnicity results. The fact is, finding “pure” reference individuals upon which to base ethnicity calculations is a challenge. Consequently, ethnicity results are somewhat questionable.

Despite that, I recommend you watch a tear jerking video from Momondo’s latest marketing campaign. In light of recent world events, I found it particularly powerful.

“There would be no such thing as extremism if people knew their heritage.”

To view the video, click here:

(If the video won’t play, try this link.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Mailbox: City Directories and Newspaper Gaps

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Insider,

I am frequently frustrated by egregious gaps in's online  standard reference materials. The most recent case was the 1949 city directory for New Orleans, Louisiana. The online directory ends in the "P" section. The filmstrip has a final page: See Next Filmstrip for Part Two.

So why doesn't ancestry have Part Two? Or, for that matter, the New Orleans City Directories for 1950, 1951, and 1952? These books are easily obtainable, but the reason I subscribe to Ancestry is to have access to these resources at my desk.  I also find it maddening that Ancestry does not acknowledge these gaps, or have a simple way to report a problem. I have just spent 30 minutes searching for a way to email about the New Orleans city directory gap and asking that they fill it.

And further: These unheralded, unexplained gaps are also a problem with online newspaper databanks. I often find huge lapses of 10 to 30 years. I have contacted but receive no explanation other than a wan, "We regret that you were inconvenienced," kind of non-answer.

Thanks v. much for your answer & the light you regularly shed on the genealogy world,

Harriet Swift

Dear Harriet,

Thank you for your kind comment.

Ancestry and work at scales with city directories and newspapers that don’t allow for attention to individual or small runs of issues. The cheapest way for a company like Ancestry to enter the City Directory or Newspaper market is to buy large, existing collections of microfilm or digital images. For example, Ancestry notes its copies of The Atlanta Constitution were scanned from microfilm. Peter Drinkwater, product manager, says that all the historic newspapers being added to are from microfilm.

I don’t know if Ancestry or has ever disclosed its sources, but ProQuest's microfilm newspaper collection, NewsBank’s microfilm newspaper collection, and Gale’s city directory microfilm collection are all potential sources. There are also large collections of digital images from some of these companies and others like

These companies, in turn, have to work at large scales. They usually microfilm or digitize at institutions having large physical collections. When such institutions lack particular issues, those become gaps in their collections. It’s too expensive to track down missing issues, move equipment all over the country, and separate needed issues from duplicate issues. The holes in these collections, in turn, become the holes in Ancestry’s and’s collections.

Ancestry is still adding to their city directory collection, so there is a chance they can fill in the gaps you need. It won’t do much good if you own the missing directory. “We don’t typically accept customer donations unless it is a substantial number of directories,” says Matthew Deighton, Ancestry spokesperson. Harriet, you mention that you know where to find the missing directories. If the owning institution has a large collection, perhaps they could be persuaded to lend their collection to Ancestry. I think Ancestry prefers an all-out gift, because they prefer to cut the spines off the directories. They can then be fed through high-speed, sheet-fed scanners. This is cheaper, faster, and provides better images. But don’t worry about rare directories. Matthew assures me, “We [Ancestry] only cut the spine on books where other copies exist.”

My guess is that Ancestry and don’t go out of their way to solicit information about missing issues because they can’t usually do much about it. However, Ancestry spokesperson, Matthew Deighton says, “Send in a suggestion identifying the missing content and we will see what we can do to fill it.” You can send messages to Ancestry at You can call them using the numbers on their phone support page. The previous option,, returns an automated message directing you to the support page. For, select “Contact” at the bottom of their website.

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, July 15, 2016

Russian Serendipity

Illuminated world globeThis is my adaptation of a story shared by reader Brian Palmer. Thanks, Brian! (See his original here.)

Jennifer Low volunteered to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church, not the volunteer, decides where the missionary will be sent. Nevertheless, missionaries have their hopes. It is an exciting moment when a young man or young woman opens the ordinary envelope from Salt Lake City that contains extraordinary news: how far from home they will move, what country they will live in, and what language they will speak for the next 18 to 24 months of their lives.

Jennifer’s grandfather fled Russia during the revolution. How exciting would it be to return to the land of her forefathers! While learning a new language is a tough challenge for many new missionaries, Jennifer had studied Russian throughout her high school and college years.

When Jennifer opened her envelope, she found she was headed to Argentina.

Jennifer packed her bags and went to Argentina as assigned. One day Jennifer and a fellow missionary (the Church’s missionaries serve in pairs) were going door-to-door, trying to find someone willing to hear their message. At one house they found an old man who didn’t respond to their Spanish. They tried English, but again received no response. Jennifer, however, spoke another language.

The man was delighted to discover she spoke Russian and invited them in to visit. It was not long before they made a remarkable discovery: the man and Jennifer’s grandfather were brothers.

The two had been separated when they fled Russia and were never able to find one another. Reunification brought great joy to both families. And it brought genealogical records, including the family Bible. The man allowed Jennifer to copy it all.

That’s what we call, serendipity in genealogy.

Image credit: Adaptation of MathKnight, “A Gateway to the World: Globes art presentation in Rotschild Boulevards in Tel Aviv during September-October 2007,” photograph, Wikimedia Commons ( : accessed 28 May 2016). Used under license.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

History’s Future Depends on You - #TheWorldsRecords

FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event 2016I received the following announcement from FamilySearch:

From July 15-17, [2016] FamilySearch International and supporting organizations are coordinating the single largest gathering of volunteers online from around the world to help in the noble effort to save, and increase access to, the world’s genealogically significant historical records. With a target of 75,000 online volunteers for the weekend event and a stretch goal of more than 200,000, you and your network of friends and colleagues can make a real difference. Remember, every historic record tells the unique story of someone’s ancestor and helps make a personal connection. Until that record is easily discoverable online, that ancestor’s story and their place in the family tree, remains untold.

Please visit for information on the world indexing event and how you can participate this weekend.

If you’ve ever used the historical records on, now’s your chance to pay back other volunteers who made that possible. If you haven’t, now’s your chance to pay it forward. Index some records you think others—or even yourself—will find helpful. If nothing else, check out the cute, interactive animation found on Look down the page for this graphic:

FamilySearch 2016 Indexing Event: History's future depends on you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

FamilySearch Family Tree Outage Minimal

FamilySearch Family Tree Now Overshadows NFSThe scheduled outage and system upgrade of FamilySearch on 27 June 2016 seems to have gone smoothly. The upgrade is an attempt to prevent performance problems. The upgrade provides “a new technology that should provide better scaling with traffic,” said FamilySearch’s Joe Martel. “That means as more people use the site it shouldn't bog down.” If the upgrade was successful, Sunday afternoon system failures should be a thing of the past.

The upgrade included breaking the synchronization link between FamilySearch Family Tree and the archaic New FamilySearch (NFS), said Ron Tanner, Family Tree product manager. The most touted benefits of the break are the ability to merge IOUSes (“Individuals of Unusual Size”) and the cessation of stupid data changes attributed to the FamilySearch or LDS Membership accounts.

Joe said that another benefit of the new system is that FamilySearch will be able to improve and enhance features faster.

“The cutover was a HUGE effort,” Joe said. “Hat's off to the engineering teams and planning that went into this.” According to fellow blogger Renee Zamora, the system was scheduled to go offline at 12:30 Monday morning. While FamilySearch had warned users the outage could go 24 hours, Holly Hansen reported on Facebook that it was back online by 6:00am.

I haven’t heard any reports of significant problems with the new system. “I'm guessing we'll see a few glitches but nothing monumental has turned up,” Joe said. I’ve seen minor issues. (There was a report that you can’t directly change a name from uppercase to mixed case. There was a report that %22 replaced quotation marks in custom facts.). I’ve seen comments about the system being faster. Joe has said that FamilySearch will need to tune the new system configuration.

There will still be situations where merging persons is not possible according to Ron, but the system will tell you the exact reason. “There are some restrictions we had to put in place for those with lots of relationships, etc.” A merge is not allowed if the combined person exceeded certain limits. According to Renee, these are the current limits:

  • Note length: 10,752 characters
  • Person notes: 50, characters 215,040
  • Relationship notes 12, characters 129,024
  • All person and relationship notes characters: 386,320
  • Conclusions: 200
  • Person source: 200
  • Relationship source: 50
  • Memories: 1000
  • Person not a match: 400
  • Discussions: 20
  • Couple relationships: 200
  • Sets of parents: 50
  • Number of children: 400

Ron says these numbers are changing as needed. I’ve already seen a report that the parent limit has changed to 100 and discussions to 50.

FamilySearch calls the new system “Tree Foundation,” according to FamilySearch engineer, Randy Wilson. It uses a database technology called Cassandra. “Our relational database just couldn’t be made to go much faster and so there was concern that Family Tree would tip over at some point soon,” he said. The new system can “scale horizontally.” That means that FamilySearch can easily add more computer servers to meet demand. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that response time will be faster, but, rather, that more people should be able to use it at once,” Randy said. He noted that this technology change will not magically fix all performance problems, but the change eliminates a fundamental bottleneck that was important to fix.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Mailbox: Alternatives to RootsWeb WorldConnect

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

RootsWeb/FamilySearch/Ancestry--I've worked 20 years on and joined RootsWeb only to find entirely too much work involved updating families. I used GEDCOM to transfer info. My unsuccessful try at Family Search gave me much incorrect information I gave up on that site; that was a hassle, also. I'm up there in years and find genealogy exhausting for me. Should I continue RW or stay with FS? How can I make the transition easier?

Vivian Newkirk

Dear Vivian,

If you are going to participate in FamilySearch's Family Tree, you need to buy into the objective of everyone collaborating to build a single tree reflecting mankind. It's more work than doing your own thing because you have to budget time for interactions with other genealogists and you must budget time for teaching people with less genealogical maturity than you (and perhaps learning from others as well, if you are wise). Without your assistance, other with less experience may corrupt the information you contribute.

FamilySearch also has a tree farm like RootsWeb's WorldConnect. It is called FamilySearch Genealogies and replaces the old Pedigree Resource Files offering. Expect it to take the same amount of work as RootsWeb to keep it up to date, plus the extra time it will take you to learn a new system.

There are a number of interactive, online family tree managers. I only follow FamilySearch and Ancestry, so I can't intelligently comment on others. I'm unclear as to whether you have an Ancestry Member Tree. That is another option. If you haven't used it, there will be a learning curve. Further, your tree will not be freely visible to everyone on the Internet. You decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Fold your desktop family tree manager into the mix and things may change. What desktop program do you wish to use?

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, July 8, 2016

Darned Lazy Spouse

Reader Donna Toole shared this darned record. Thank you, Donna!

Wife stays in bed for a week to avoid housework.

Declares Wife Stayed In Bed to Avoid
          Doing Housework.
   LA PORTE,   Ind.,   Sept.  20.—Harry E
Galbreath, editor and publisher of the
Saturday Advertiser, today brought ac-
tion for divorce from Rose Wagner, mak-
ing the unusual allegation that his wife
persisted in staying in bed for a week
at a time to escape doing housework
Galbreath says he got tired of waiting
on her.

Dear Mr. Galbreath, The Insider has a message for you from most every wife on the planet: “Welcome to my world.”

Source: “Editor Sues for Divorce,” The Indianapolis (Indiana) Star, 21 September 1911, p. 4, col. 3; digital image, ( : accessed 5 March 2016).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Life of a Record from the Barbour Collection

In my last article I illustrated the importance of coming to understand online records. I used an record of Elenor Kendall’s birth and death. I went through the steps a researcher would follow to trace that record back to the original source. We learned the information had been copied from a copy of a copy of an original and neither the birth date nor the death date remained correct. (See “Take Time to Understand Online Records.”)

The reality is far worse. The copy on Ancestry is not a 3rd generation copy, but a 7th generation copy! And with each copy, small changes were introduced.

Generation 1 – The Old Paper Book

The original proprietors record of the town of Ashford, Connecticut was commonly known as “The Old Paper Book.” Elenor’s 1727 birth and death would have been recorded therein.


Generation 2 – Copy of the Old Paper Book

In 1770 “the Old Paper Book” was transcribed into a new volume:

Illustration 1 – Preface of the copy of the Old Paper Book1

The following is a Coppy of What
is Called the old Paper Book and all
the old Record that I found Belonging
theirunto Without ye Alteration of one
Word. tho not in Just the Same form

This Book Was Transcribed in the Months
of Febry March & April Anno Domini
1770 By Ebenr Byles Town Clerk
and attested at ye End ---------------

Page 2 documents Elenor Kendall’s birth on 5 April 1727 and death on 2 August 1727:

Illustration 2 – Page snippet from the copy of “The Old Paper Book”2

Elenor ye Daughter of Isaac Kendall by Elener his Wife Was Bor[obscured by paper repair]
5th Day of April 1727 --- & Sd Eliner Kendall Deceasd the 2d
of August Next following ----------------------------------------------


Generation 3 – Barbour Collection Arnold Transcript

Lucius Barnes Barbour of Hartford, Connecticut directed a project to abstract Connecticut town vital records up to about 1850. Among those he hired to help was James N. Arnold, known for his Rhode Island vital record abstracts. Consequently, the abstracts were known as the “Arnold” transcripts.3 Among these was an abstract Arnold did in 1911 of Ashford’s “Ye Old Paper Book,” which he designated as volume A.4


Generation 4 – The Slip Index

Barnes gave the Arnold Transcripts to the Connecticut state library which typed the information onto printed forms. Each form was cut into twelve small slips.5

This is Elenor’s slip:

Slip of Eleanor Kendall - with shadow
Illustration 3 – Slip from Barbour Collection Slip Index6

Notice that somewhere between generation 2 and generation 4 the birth year was changed from 1727 to 1827. Apparently, the typist was uncertain and added a footnote indicating it was “probably 1727?” The death month was changed from August to April. And a surname variation was added that wasn’t present in generation 2.

Generation 5 – The Volume Index

The state library alphabetized the slips for each town, grouped surname variations, retyped the information onto rag sheets, and bound them into volumes.7 Each town received a copy (labeled “The Arnold Copy”) of their town’s volume. 8 The state retained a set, which they call the volume index.9

The page from the Ashford volume containing Elenor’s birth and death information is:

Illustration 4 – Page snippets from the Barbour Collection Volume Index10

Notice what changed between the slip and the volume. The word “probably” was removed from the footnote. That’s a pretty important qualifier to be thrown away. The asterisk was removed from the footnote, leaving the asterisk superimposed over the comma looking like a semicolon. The surname grouping removed the surname variation.


Generation 6 – White’s Publication

Lorraine Cook White typeset and published the Barbour Collection in 55 volumes titled The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records.

Here is the page containing Elenor Kendall:

Illustration from the Published Barbour Collection Publication
Illustration 5 – Page snippets from White’s Barbour Collection11

Notice that White’s transcription of Elenor’s record is nearly flawless. A trivial quirk appeared because of the asterisk superimposed over a comma in the volume index. White interpreted it as a semicolon and then inserted a space before it.


Generation 7 – The Ancestry Database

Ancestry indexed White’s publication and published it as an online database.

Here is the record of the birth and death of Elenor Kendall:

Illustration Record from
Illustration 6 – A Record from the Barbour Collection Database12

Notice that Ancestry’s indexers changed the death date from 2 April 1828 to 2 April 1727, a hundred years before the birth. The database design provided them no other way to capture the alternative year. Consequently, they lost the ambiguity of the century: 1727 vs. 1827.


Take time to understand the databases you use online. Try to get a sense of how many generations of changes precede the one you are viewing.

Changes are introduced just about every time a record is copied. Just like the children’s game, Telephone or Gossip, the more intermediaries, the worse the misinterpretation. Just like an old photocopy machine, the more intermediaries, the worse the degradation. Don’t bother with the intermediaries as I did here. Always pursue the earliest copy.



     1.  Ashford, Connecticut, Proprietors Records (1705-1770), preface; Town Clerk’s Office, Ashford; FHL microfilm 3,676.
     2.  Ashford, Connecticut, Proprietors Records, 2.
     3.  “Vital Records for Connecticut (Birth, Marriage & Death Records),” LibGuide, CT State Library ( : accessed 2 July 2016).
     4.  Lucius Barnes Barbour, “Connecticut Vital Records, Ashford Births – Marriages – Deaths, 1710-1851, Barbour Collection” (bound typescript, 1921, Connecticut State Library, Harford), ii; FHL microfilm 2,967.
     5.  Lorraine Cook White, comp., The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: Andover 1848-1879, Ashford 1710-1851, Avon 1830-1851, [vol. 1] (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994), i.
     6.  Lucius Barnes Barbour, “Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records prior to 1850” (card file, n.d., Connecticut State Library, Hartford), alphabetical entry for Elenor Kendall, born 5 April 1827. False coloring by the author.
     7.  White, The Barbour Collection, [vol. 1], i.
     8.  New England Historic Genealogical Society, “Connecticut's Barbour Collection of Vital Records,” American Ancestors ( : accessed 2 July 2016), Browse > Articles > Author > New England Historic Genealogical Society > Connecticut's Barbour Collection of Vital Records.
     9.  “Vital Records for Connecticut,” LibGuide.
     10.  Barbour, “Connecticut Vital Records, Ashford…Barbour Collection” (bound typescript), 95. The bound volumes have been digitized and indexed on, including p. 95.
     11.  Detail from White, The Barbour Collection, [vol. 1], 137; digital image, “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection)” ( : accessed 25 June 2016), Ashford Vital Records 1710-1851 > image 121 of 253.
     12.  “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection),” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 June 2016), search “Elenor Kendall” (do not specify date); citing Lorraine Cook, ed. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records, 55 vols. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Take Time to Understand Online Records

It is important that we understand the records we find online. Consider an example. Suppose we are trying to find the birth and death dates of Eleanor Kendall, daughter of Isaac and Eleanor from early Ashford, Connecticut. We search and find the database record below. We snip the image, slap a URL on it, and we’re done. Right?

Illustration 1 – Snippet from with Anemic Citation
Illustration 1 – Snippet from with Anemic Citation1

Not so fast. We need to understand this record. We need to evaluate how trustworthy it is. We remember that we are using an online database. That means Ancestry extracted (sometimes called indexed) information from a previous source.

Extracting information into databases introduces errors. Databases are not full abstracts (copies of all relevant information in records). Extractors, or indexers as they are often called, may misread or misinterpret information. They may be unfamiliar with the language, naming customs, or handwriting. They may lose their place and skip or duplicate information. And when extracting information into a database, indexers are constrained by the fields and data types; information that doesn’t fit may be adapted or discarded. Database publishers further manipulate the information to maximize the database’s searchability; names, dates, and locations are standardized to values the software program can understand.

Not content to grab and go, we examine the information surrounding a record:

Illustration 2 – Record from
Illustration 2 – Record from Ancestry.com2

We see Ancestry has provided a helpful citation stating where Elenor’s information came from: a series of 55 books edited by Lorraine Cook White titled The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records.

We scroll down and read the database description. There we read that this database is an index to the Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection.

The Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection, well known to the Connecticut researcher, serves as an index to and an abstract of most pre-1850 Connecticut vital records. …Barbour’s project was to abstract and collect all town vital records up to about 1850. There are two formats to the material. The first is a statewide paper slip alphabetical index containing a complete abstract of each vital record taken from the books in each town. …The second format is the group of separately bound volumes of abstracts of vital records for most towns, prepared from the slips.3

From this description we note the number of times this information has been recopied: it was abstracted, it was copied from slips into bound volumes, and it was extracted into a database. (As we shall see tomorrow, this is a simplified view of the number of times this information was copied.) Each of these steps introduces the possibility of errors.

We note there is an image attached to Elenor’s record. We look at the image:

Illustration 3 – From the Published Barbour Collection Publication
Illustration 3 – From The Barbour Collection4

We see here that the information about Elenor came from vol. A, p. 2. And we see that Ancestry’s indexers actually did make an error. As you may have already guessed, Eleanor did not die before she was born. She died the 2nd of April following 5 April 1827, or in other words, 2 April 1828. We see the source of Ancestry’s error; there is a note that the year might be 1727, not 1827.

We want to examine the original source and come to our own conclusion: Did Eleanor die in April 1828 or April 1728? We set out to find vol. A, p. 2 of White’s source. The preface of a book of compiled information often tells how to use the book, explains abbreviations, and explains sources. We want to see what and where “vol. A” is. We use the Ancestry filmstrip view and find that, unfortunately, Ancestry excluded these important pages.

We check the FamilySearch Catalog for Ashford, Windham, Connecticut, and find it has “Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1675-1849,” microfilm 1,376,249 item 1. The volume was created by the town clerk and was there when FamilySearch/GSU filmed it. We (if you’re me) walk down the street to the Salt Lake City Family History Library and look at the film. Sorry; I shouldn’t rub it in. We order the film, pay the rental fee, wait a long time, drive over to the FamilySearch family history center, and take a look at it.

We find the title board does not identify the volume and there is no photograph of the spine or cover. The handwriting is fairly modern, all written about the same time, has one vital record per line, and has surnames grouped together. We find the record of Elenor on page 4, not page 2.

Illustration 4 – Vital Record Book of the Town of Ashford5

We suspect this is not the earliest record of Elenor’s birth, but, gosh, it says some interesting things. This copy says that Elener’s birth and death both occurred in 1727 and the death was in August, not April.

Still in pursuit of the original source, we head back to the FamilySearch Catalog and find “Proprietor records 1705-1770,” microfilm 3,676, created by the town clerk and filmed in the town. The catalog entry notes that, as proprietor records often do, this record contains records of births (from 1670 to 1737). We walk down the street again—I mean, we order the film, pay the rental fee, wait a long time, drive over to the family history center, hope for the best, and take a look at the film. Here is what we find on the 2nd page:

Illustration 5 – Proprietor’s Record of Ashford6

Elenor ye Daughter of Isaac Kendall by Elener his Wife Was Bor[obscured by paper repair]
5th Day of April 1727 --- & Sd Eliner Kendall Deceasd the 2d
of August Next following ----------------------------------------------

We seem to have finally found our original. The year is clearly 1727 and the death month is clearly August. Feeling accomplished and satisfied, we are ready to call it a night when we realize we haven’t taken time to really understand this record. We investigate the first page of the volume and find this:

Illustration 6 – Preface to Ashford Proprietor’s Record7

The following is a Coppy of What
is Called the old Paper Book and all
the old Record that I found Belonging
theirunto Without ye Alteration of one
Word. tho not in Just the Same form

This Book Was Transcribed in the Months
of Febry March & April Anno Domini
1770 By Ebenr Byles Town Clerk
and attested at ye End ---------------

Oops. I guess we didn’t quite reach the original source.

Feeling less accomplished and not at all satisfied, we call it a night.



     1.  “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection),” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 June 2016), search “Elenor Kendall” (do not specify date); citing Lorraine Cook, ed. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records, 55 vols. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002).
     2.  ibid.
     3.  “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection),” database page, Ancestry ( : accessed 2 July 2016); citing Alice Eichholz, “Connecticut”, Ancestry's Red Book, ed. Alice Eichholz (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004).
     4.  Detail from Lorraine Cook White, comp., The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: Andover 1848-1879, Ashford 1710-1851, Avon 1830-1851, [vol. 1] (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994), 137; digital image, “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection)” ( : accessed 25 June 2016), Ashford Vital Records 1710-1851 > image 121 of 253.
     5.  Detail from Ashford, Connecticut, Vital Records, 1675-1849, p. 4, ; Town Clerk’s Office, Ashford; FHL microfilm 1,376,249, item 1.
     6.  Detail from Ashford, Connecticut, Proprietors Records, 1705-1770, 2; Town Clerk’s Office, Ashford; FHL microfilm 3,676.
     7.  Detail from Ashford, Connecticut, Proprietors Records, 1705-1770, preface; Town Clerk’s Office, Ashford; FHL microfilm 3,676.

Note: Credit for identification of an erroneous record in the Barbour Collection is due Marilyn Labbe, “Corrections and Additions to the Vital Records of Ashford, Connecticut and Brooklyn, Connecticut,” Connecticut Nutmegger (December 1998) 31:375; images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 3 July 2016).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ancestry DNA $79 Sale is running their periodic $79 sale for their DNA test kits. They list at $99 and regularly go on sale for $89. The $79 sale price comes just a couple times a year. Today’s sale is celebrating U.S. Independence Day and today is the last day of the sale (11:59pm ET). I think you can get the special price at


Friday, July 1, 2016

Darned Records: Miscreant Search

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable.

Records say the darnedest things!

Rather than a record, per se, today I consider darned search results from A reader, Jim Castellan, shared a search result from that he saw a couple of years ago. The search results have seemingly zero to do with his query.

Weird search results on from 2014

This behavior has not changed. If you perform the same search today, you get the same result (with the exception that Mary Brown has moved out of New York City?).

Weird search results on from today

Here’s a partial explanation. Look at the search sliders on the left side. The “Lived in” New York City slider has been pushed all the way to the right. This requires that all results be located in the specified place. All the rest of the sliders (except last name) have been pushed all the way to the left. That means the search results don’t necessarily need to match all of those criteria. If you examine the results, all meet a couple of them:

  • name is a nickname of William
  • born within several years of 1871
  • born within one state of Connecticut
  • married within several years of 1895

To receive more reasonable results, fiddle with the sliders. If you move the name sliders to the “Exact and similar” position, you get zero results, which might be what you expect if William Pinkerman died or moved out of New York City. If you then move the Lived In slider to the left to “Country,” there is the possibility that you will find where your William Pinkerman moved to.

The search sliders are one of the most powerful aspects of the Ancestry search system. They provide a degree of control lacking on other websites, which pick these settings for you and then don’t tell you what they chose.

Yes, search results sometimes say the darnedest things!