Friday, August 31, 2007

Some Final (?) thoughts on the Ancestry Fiasco

The following message was posted at 5:25 p.m (Eastern Time) on 24/7 Family History Circle:
"Hi, my name is Kendall Hulet, and I’m a product manager at I’ve probably met a lot of you at FGS, NGS, and other conferences. If not, I look forward to meeting you in the future.

"I wanted to write you a note because I’m extremely concerned about the frustrations that the recently-removed Internet Biographical Collection has caused. We had hoped to provide a way for you to be able to search the entire web easily for genealogically-relevant pages and provide for preservation of sources for future generations. In looking back, we understand why members of the community are upset. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and we’ve removed this product with no intention of re-releasing it. Instead, it is my hope that someday we’ll be able to provide a free web search engine that links directly back to the live web pages, and can become a useful tool to the genealogical community. If we do move forward with this type of initiative, we will seek your input and talk more with community leaders to make sure we get it right."

He stops just short of an apology, expresses concern, and offers hope for the possibility of a better research tool in the future (with input from community leaders!). Hmm.

I took a bit of a break from the genea-blogosphere most of yesterday and today so I am catching up on things.

Yesterday Jasia asked us Do You Know Who Your Friends Are? If you haven't read it yet, you should. And the comments also. I too had been wondering why there was no response from the other major players in the genealogy industry or from many of those that call themselves professional genealogists. Ancestry has a "long arm" in this business and likely affects areas that we aren't fully aware of. I don't fault anyone for their silence on the matter. You do what you think is best at the time. There were some from the "commercial" and "professional" ranks who did step forward. Jasia acknowledges them and I applaud their courage to speak out.

I was amazed to see my experience with this issue quoted in - You're Not Going To Believe This on Legacy News (written by Geoff Rasmussen, I think ?) As he stated "Ancestry does provide a wonderful service. Although a bit pricey for many, I'm sure they put millions and millions of dollars into their efforts. We should not expect something for nothing. This week, however, Ancestry went too far." He went on to explain what had happened. Not only did he acknowledge that what Ancestry had done was wrong but he also listed many of the other genea-bloggers and linked to their posts on the subject. Thank you Legacy! In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a user of Legacy since version 3.0 and am looking forward to version 7.0 when it comes out in a few months. It's not likely that whomever wrote this post on Legacy News was aware that I use their software.

I thought the variety of comments on Dick Eastman's two posts on the subject was interesting. Opinions varied widely. I stopped by Dick's booth at the FGS Conference two weeks ago and thanked him for the service he provides all of us with his online newsletter. He seemed genuinely pleased that I had taken a few moments of my time to let him know that what he has done for the genealogy community is appreciated. I may not agree with some of the opinions he has expressed on this issue, or past issues for that matter, but that doesn't change the fact that he does provide us with a service in presenting the news and issues of this community. And I still appreciate what he does - he makes a very good devil's advocate, indeed. However, I'll admit that I was pleased to see him finally admit that Ancestry had blundered when they released this "collection" of websites (this was in response to Jasia's comments on 08/30), and I quote:
"I do think some of the things that did recently were good business practice while some other things were really stupid. We have a mixed bag here. Displaying other peoples' web pages in frames so as to hide the URL of the originating web page is probably one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. I totally agree with you there. I am amazed that such action got past the company's internal product reviews or the senior managers, most of whom I know personally. I usually respect their judgement and was surprised with that one "feature." It is not like them. Somebody was asleep!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comic Relief...

Oh my, Apple has a wonderful, funny story, but oh, so true! It's just what we all need after the last couple of days. Do go read Bathroom Follies - thanks to Jasia for the link.

Speculation regarding the "IBC" and Ancestry

After my last post regarding Ancestry removing the "Internet Biographical Collection" I did some checking.

As of half an hour ago (8:10 p.m. eastern time) if you do a standard search, the "Internet Biographical Collection" does not display in the results under Historical Records/Birth, Marriage, & Death. However, you can still go directly to the page for the database (the link was posted earlier today by at least two other blogs but I'm not gonna post it here). It shows up as an "Unknown" database but still has the same verbiage for the source information, i.e. it is an Ancestry database. And it can still be searched.

In the record detail they have added the url of the website as another piece of information, and it is clickable. But if it is a long url, the full address does not display.

In their announcement, Ancestry said "We have decided to remove this collection and search engine from for the time being." This tells me that it will probably be back. But perhaps they will have learned something from all this and will "do it right" this time.
  • They need to change the wording for the source information so that it is very clear that the content is from another site and is not actually their content.
  • They need to prominently display the full url of the website where the information is coming from.
  • They need to remove the link to the cached page as a default. A link to a cached page should only be displayed if the original website is no longer a live site.
  • They should offer it as a free service. It should not be a subscription database.
I'm sure there are some other things they should do also ;-) but I'll leave those suggestions to someone else.

My original post on the subject "Is this Fair Use?" includes some screen shots and I have some additional thoughts in Take a deep breath and relax...

I'm sure Ancestry never thought there would be such an outcry over what they have done. It's a credit to genealogists everywhere, not just the genea-bloggers, who spoke up and made their voice heard. Your opinion does matter, sometimes!

Ancestry Removes the Internet Biographical Collection

Julianna Smith has just posted the announcement that the Internet Biographical Collection has been removed from Ancestry

The message she received from Ancestry:

Earlier this week we launched the Internet Biographical Collection on Our goal was to offer members a search engine that focused primarily on genealogy resources. We intended this collection to help surface family history information that many people would not be able to find easily because it is often scattered among numerous websites across the Internet. We cached individual Web pages in an effort to preserve history – if a Web page featuring important family history information were taken down in the future, a cached version would still be available.

Many people have expressed concerns about the collection and the search engine we created on We recognize the significant time and resources members of the genealogical community invest to make their family history research available online.

Over the past few days we have reevaluated this collection’s goals, caching and crawling ability, and user experience. We have decided to remove this collection and search engine from for the time being. We are still dedicated to providing family historians the online tools and aggregated records that make it easier to trace their family tree and will work to develop a solution that meets those needs in a way that will be most beneficial to our customers and the community.

Take a deep breath and relax...

Legal or not, by initially charging for content created by other people Ancestry has not endeared themselves to many members of the genealogical community. I want people to find my webpages. I want people to use that information. I'm not going to "take it down" or install a robots.txt file to prohibit them or any other search engine from providing links to my site. That would be stupid and defeat the purpose of publishing it in the first place. The problem I had was that the pages, as they were first displayed, were made to appear as though they were content on and the link to the "live" page was not obvious. The description that Ancestry provides for this "database" is misleading and the url for the web page is not displayed anywhere within the context of the detail for the "hit" which still makes it appear as though it is their content. Has this been a big blunder on Ancestry's part? Sure. Am I going to cancel my subscription? Probably Not. Will I renew my subscription? Not sure.

The way I understand copyright is that currently anything that is published (whether on a blog, website, book, magazine, etc.) is under copyright whether it has been officially registered or not. So my work is under copyright. Big Deal. The cost of registering your work under copyright is prohibitive. Proving "loss of monetary gain" is nearly impossible. I'm not going to be able to stop anyone from taking it, whether that be a big company or an individual. The only way I could stop it is by not publishing it in the first place.

A Creative Commons license has been added to this blog, prominently, in the upper right corner. I've done this not to stop someone from using my content but to make them at least think about how they will use it. And, hopefully they will use proper source citations and attribute what they do use to me. The license also, supposedly, prohibits use of my content for monetary gain. Will it stop someone or some company from doing so? Probably not. Will it give me recourse to take action if they do so? Not sure. But it makes me feel a bit better for having it displayed prominently.

And why am I researching my family history? Not for myself - for my ancestors, so that they might not be forgotten - for my relatives, so that they will know something of their history - for others unrelated to me so that they might get some insight into what life was like for the common person in different times. So why would I want to stop publishing? Why would I want to prohibit search engines from finding my stuff?

My first post on this subject Is this Fair Use? shows some screen shots before Ancestry changed it to a "free" database.

Some additional posts on the subject:

Lets take something positive away from this fiasco. Volunteer with FamilySearch Indexing so their content becomes available sooner. Contribute. Don't stop publishing.

*** Update 10:25 a.m. ***
Kimberly Powell has posted The Legality of Caching with some additonal interesting thoughts on this new tool in Ancestry's arsenal.

*** Additional Links Added at 6:40 p.m. ***

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Is this Fair Use?

This morning I received an email from someone who was asking me for more information about a person they had found on my site at but the first thing that popped into my feeble brain was that I don't have a website on Ancestry and I knew that what they were referring to was not on my freepages at RootsWeb!

So I went to Ancestry and did a search for "Phend" which brought up the following screen and didn't see anything out of the ordinary (click on any of the images to make them easier to read):

So I elected to view all 229 results:

The "Internet Biographical Collection" jumped out at me. Notice the padlock? I clicked on that link, but this is a "for pay" subscription database, and since I wasn't logged in I couldn't see the detail any more than the listing of pages, all of which, except for the last one, are from my website and they are definitely NOT part of!!!

After logging in and clicking on "View Record" on one of the listings, what you see is shown below. No indication of where this came from, only a small link to "View Cached Web Page", Okay, so it says it is a cached page. . .

Click on "View Cached Web Page" (click on these images to make them bigger) you'll see a small link at the top of the page to "View Live web page" and it will then take you to the page, maybe.

For this particular page the link works because my site is still live. But when I was investigating all this I had gone to some obituary links. The site where the obituary was retrieved from is even more "hidden" for lack of a better word - many newspapers only keep obituaries online for a short time so the page is no longer live. I wonder if is paying those sites to "store" their obituaries and make them available to Ancestry subscribers?

Is this legal or moral? How is it right for to take my website pages, which I've made freely available, and CHARGE people to use them? And if they can legally or morally do this, how can they in turn say that it is illegal for their users (me and you) to use their images (census records, draft cards, etc.) on our websites or in our books or other publications?

The more I think about this, the angrier I am getting. At first I thought, okay, they say it is a cached web page, but it's not overly obvious. But they are charging people for access to my stuff!!! I really don't think it would bother me so much if this wasn't hidden behind a padlock. The more people that can find my data and possibly connect to me or someone else, the better - but they shouldn't have to pay to see it! Now, Ancestry is probably going to say they are simply providing a service for all of us poor webmasters and making it so that more people will see our stuff - but does that make it right? They are profiting from my work, and not just my work but the work of anyone with a genealogy related website. Will my blog pages show up next?

This is different than Google or Yahoo or any other search engine storing cached pages or providing links to websites. This is a company using other peoples work for their own gain - Ancestry is charging for these 'searches'. That is just not right, and not just because this is my work showing up - if you have genealogy pages out there anywhere they will probably show up as part of this new Ancestry database.

*** Update 4:00 PM Tuesday ***
I spent a while this morning and afternoon putting this post together, and while I was doing so, it appears that "all hel* was breaking loose" on this issue, see these posts with some very good commentary on the subject:

*** Update 4:44 PM Tuesday *** has now made the "Internet Biographical Collection" a "free" resource. You have to register to view these free records, which is not the same as signing up for a free trial, but why should you even have to register to view the "Internet Biographical Collection"? Registration is not required to view the Ancestry World Tree entries. To my way of thinking, this step by Ancestry does not entirely resolve the issue.

*** Update 11:30 PM Tuesday ***

Dick Eastman's post yesterday on The Generations Network Receives Patent for Correlating Genealogy Records has a lot of comments dealing with the Internet Biographical Collection, which really had nothing to do with his original topic, so you could say the comments thread got hijacked. As can be expected there is a wide range of opinions on the matter. Some make sense, others don't. Some valid, some not. And Dick is really good at playing the devil's advocate!

I'm Nice! Miriam says so!

I've been honored by receiving the Nice Matters Blog Award from Miriam Midkiff. This award was created earlier this month by Genevieve Olsen at Bella Enchanted to "be awarded to those that are just nice people, good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!" Two versions of the award are available, one for the ladies and another, less feminine, for the gentlemen.

Actually, I think that most all genea-bloggers could receive this award. They are investing a lot of time in blogging because they want to share their family stories and research and many of them have certainly inspired me. So, if you haven't already done so, click on some of those blogs in my blogroll and check them out! Anyway, I've selected the following five genea-bloggers (in no significant order) to receive the Nice Matters Award. . .
  • Denise Olson at Family Matters for sharing her passion for research by providing detailed tips on new technology and resources that we can use in our own research. On her personal blog, Moultrie Creek, Denise shares stories and memorabilia of her family.
  • Janice Brown at Cow Hampshire for her unique perspective on genealogy and for her wry sense of humor - and her interest in outhouses (and their contents) . . .
  • Chris Dunham of The Genealogue fame for brightening my day with his humorous and touching stories and for creating the "Genealogy Blog Finder" and I'm really enjoying his "Genealogy Challenge" series.
  • Tim Agazio at Genealogy Reviews Online for the unusual and interesting stories and websites that he finds and shares with us.
  • Stephen Danko researcher extraordinaire at Steve's Genealogy Blog who sets a high standard for documentation with his translations of Polish documents. It only follows that if I'm a nice person, then someone who shares the same personality type as I do must also be a nice person!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Armenian Ancestors?

One of the "facts" told by my mother when I first started asking questions about her grandmother, Susie Yarian Phend, was that the Yarian family came from Armenia. She said she remembers being told that any surname ending in "ian" was of Armenian origin. The story was that they were persecuted because of their religion and, over several generations, left Armenia and eventually made their way to this country. But she didn't know when they came. In fact, the only thing that she or any of her cousins could remember about Susie was that she had lived in Nappanee, Elkhart County when she and Henry Phend were married.

First thing I did was check an atlas to see where in the world Armenia was located. It's a landlocked mountainous country in Eurasia and shares borders with Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south. Until 1991 Armenia was a republic of the Soviet Union. One of the things that our old encyclopedia told us was that Armenia was the first nation to formally adopt Christianity, which they did early in the 4th century. It seemed reasonable that there could be religious persecution in that area of the world.

The next thing was to find Susie's parents. That turned out to be a pretty simple task - her obituary stated that she was a native of Elkhart county, that she was born northwest of Nappanee, and that she was a daughter of Eli and Lavina Berlin Yarian. Her death record, with son Paul as the informant, confirmed that information.

At the Allen County Public Library I found the "History of Elkhart County, Indiana" (Chapman, 1881, p. 1146) which showed that Eli was born in Portage County, Ohio and was the son of Jacob and Elizabeth Yarian. Eli had come to Elkhart County in 1866. Then, the "History of Portage County, Ohio" (Beers, 1885, p. 808) included a biography of Jacob Yarian. It stated "Jacob Yarian, Sr., farmer, P.O. Randolph, was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, December 24, 1812, son of Conrad and Eva Yarian, natives of Pennsylvania, of Westmoreland and Lancaster Counties, respectively, and who settled in Columbiana County, Ohio, in 1803."

Another clue came from the biography of a brother of Eli (Jonathan Yarian who had lived in Noble County, Indiana for a while) published in the "History of Whitley and Noble Counties, Indiana" (Goodspeed, 1882, p. 498): "Conrad and Eve (Ruperd) Yarian, natives of the Keystone State, were married in Columbiana County, Ohio, and had thirteen children. Mr. Yarian was of German descent; his ancestors came to this country during Colonial times, and some of them served in the Revolutionary War."

It was about this time that I connected with Lowell Yarian who had done extensive research on the Yarian family. He provided me with the information that Conrad's parents were John George and Margaretha Williams YERION. George, as he was called, was born October 18, 1733 in Oley, Bucks (now Northampton) County, Pennsylvania. His father, Mathias JURIAN, had arrived in this country on the ship "Pleasant" in October 1732 having sailed from Rotterdam. His source was a 14 page document titled "Some Descendants of Mathais Jurian 1702-1763" which was compiled by Miss Cecil M. Smith, no date.

With that information I returned to the Allen County Library to locate the booklet by Cecil Smith and to look up the passenger lists in "Pennsylvania German Pioneers" by Ralph Strassburger and edited by William John Hinke, published in 1934. This multi-volume publication includes facsimile copies of the two lists in which the passengers either signed their name or made their mark. Mathias made his mark, a scrawly "Mi" (or "Mj" as interpreted by others) and his name was written as Mathias Ieryon, and Matthias Jurian. The transcribed captain's list gave his name as Marthiy Jargon. The other information obtained from these lists was that he was 30 years old and was one of the "Palatines imported in the Ship Pleasant, James Morris, master, from Rotterdam, but last from Deal. Qualified October 11, 1732."

In 1986 I had taken a research trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania and had found source documents (marriage records, wills, estate settlements) to confirm most of the information found in the county history books mentioned above. In 1989, "The Yerian-Yeryan Family" was published by James Weaver with the assistance of Carl Bennett and many other Yarian family researchers. Though the precise location that Mathias came from is not known, the conclusion was, by all indications, he was of German heritage. Mathias spoke German, settled among Germans, belonged to a German Lutheran church, married a German, and gave his children German names. Not Armenian.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

WeRelate and the Allen County Public Library

Promise? Yes, I promise! This will be my last post on the 2007 FGS Conference ;-) . . . in one of my previous posts I mentioned that one of the sessions I attended at the FGS Conference was "Working on Tomorrow's Virtual Community Today" with Curt Witcher in which he talked a bit about the relationship that the Allen County Public Library has established with the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and WeRelate. Curt didn't really say much about the specific role that the ACPL is playing in the partnership but we did learn a little about the philosophy behind the relationship and the goals they want to achieve.

As Curt said "these are challengingly interesting times for researchers. The available electronic data is immense and growing exponentially. Along with this, the challenge of finding relevant data is also growing exponentially." Nothing new there, right? He continued "there is a growing need for collaboration - to avoid duplication of effort, to have the ability to have your data online on a site that has no affiliations and at no cost to the users."

Curt continued to emphasize that use of the site and data would be free to users. Call me a skeptic, but as Dear Myrtle (and Jasia) brought up just this week, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone, somewhere has to pay for the costs for this "free" online data including server space, bandwidth, obtaining the data, etc. So, how are they going to finance this free resource? Curt didn't get into that aspect but currently WeRelate is being funded by tax-deductible donations. In the "Watercooler" I found a comment regarding the recent design change of having the data being on the left side of the screen with notes in a larger "open" space on the right: "It's in preparation for putting genealogy ads on the right, which we need to do to pay for hosting costs." I'm wondering if maybe for an annual fee you could have the ads removed like they do for some other sites? I don't have a problem with ads, the expenses have to be covered somehow.

Why is the ACPL associated with WeRelate? Well, the way that Curt put it is that he wants "to let everyone play in the sandbox" by making genealogy accessible to more people. Essentially, the more players there are the better it will be for everyone. He also wants it to be a site that has no affiliations so that people will feel more "comfortable" with contributing their family data and to make it easier to collaborate with other researchers. The use of the wiki platform should encourage that collaboration by making it easier for information to be updated while maintaining a record of changes that were made and by whom. In order to edit any page on the site the user must be registered and logged in to WeRelate.

The bottom line is that WeRelate is all about collaboration, getting more people involved in genealogy, and free access to information and records.

Now, I've played around a bit with WeRelate but haven't yet uploaded a GedCom or created any people pages or anything else. I am working on a small file for testing purposes. I do want to see how it will handle the data as it is entered into my database and what kind of adjustments I may need to make in my data entry to conform to the site and how it displays information. I do think the site has great potential and I especially like the idea of collaboration with other researchers. So why haven't I contributed to it yet? Mostly inertia, but also a bit of skepticism, and the fact that I really haven't found the site to be all that intuitive to use. In my opinion, navigation of the site and the search feature both leave a lot to be desired. I got frustrated when doing a search on one of my surnames that is also a place name: a search for the "Berlin" in the Surname field and with "Person (and Family)" selected as the Namespace to search returned 578 items. On the 15th page of results it finally displayed a couple of entries for people. That's as far as I went. It wasn't giving me what I thought it should.

One thing to keep in mind is that WeRelate is a Beta site, it is under development, they are still learning what it is the users want and need. They are open to suggestions and want to improve the site. I encourage you to investigate WeRelate, take the 10-minute video tour and check out the other help features they have.

I highly recommend the series of posts that Denise Olson at Family Matters has on using WeRelate. She has tips and screen shots as well as some step-by-step instructions. She'll also be writing additional posts on using the site:
Also, Randy Seaver had an interesting and informative post on Testing the Wiki/Genea-Networking site wherein he describes uploading a GedCom and using some of the features. He also lists what he likes and what he dislikes about WeRelate.

Additional Links:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

John Philip Colletta

On my FGS Conference - Favorite Session(s) post, Randy Seaver commented that he hasn't heard John Philip Colletta speak yet and asked if I could share some of his audience participation techniques. I was going to respond to Randy in comments, but I became a bit verbose ;-) thus, this post.

In my opinion, Mr. Colletta simply followed the basic precepts for a good speaker: Know the needs of your audience and match your content to their needs. Know your material thoroughly. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence. Emphasize your strong points. Look pleasant, enthusiastic, confident, proud, but not arrogant. Remain calm. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and show appropriate emotion and feeling relating to your topic. Establish rapport with your audience. Vary the tone of your voice and dramatize if necessary. Etc., etc. He did all of these things, very well.

I attended at least one lecture during the conference where I wasn't sure that the speaker really even wanted to be there, and it showed during their presentation: monotone voice, little emotion, reading a script, etc. Perhaps it was their first major conference and they were nervous. I left the lecture feeling sorry for the speaker having learned very little in the hour spent with them. Quite the opposite with Mr. Colletta. Keep in mind, I can only speak of my own reactions and thoughts regarding his lectures, not those of others in the audience. Their reactions to him may have been different. But, to me, it was obvious from the beginning that he knew what he was talking about. It came across in his demeanor. You could see that he was interested in and enthusiastic about his topic. And he was enjoying himself.

He involved the audience immediately by starting out with a story that related to his topic, by telling only a part of the story to begin with, and letting us know that we would learn the rest of the story before the end of his presentation. A technique similar to that used by Paul Harvey. He evoked emotions by using humor and sometimes even sad, poignant stories. You felt what he was talking about, you weren't just listening. He was constantly giving examples to emphasize his point and to build the storyline. He asked questions during the lecture and encouraged those who had questions to ask them.

I had never previously attended one of his lectures. While writing about the conference I found his website in which the first paragraph speaks volumes to me about his philosophy:
"Searching for ancestors is a journey of self-discovery. — As you learn who they were, you discover more about who you are. The journey is not only enlightening, but great fun, too! My teaching focuses on seeing every ancestor as an individual living in a particular place at a particular time. Classes are interactive, as I respond to participants' questions as they arise. My goal is to help family historians optimize their efforts to uncover and write the stories of their forebears, and to enjoy all along the way the pleasure and humor of the journey."
His website:

Some of his lectures have been recorded on audio (cassette tape) and can be found at the Repeat Performance website. I don't know how well the lectures would translate because you wouldn't see the examples he used but it might be worth getting one of them to check it out. They are reasonably priced.

Recommended Reading - fM's photo biography

footnoteMaven has a wonderful post titled "Finding That Two Hundreth Edwardian Woman In A White Dress" in which she takes a photograph (of people not related to her I might add) and creates a mini-biography of each person pictured, using only census records! It's absolutely amazing the amount of information she gleaned from the census records.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

FGS Conference - Favorite Session(s)

In a comment on one of my posts on the FGS Conference, Janice Brown at Cow Hampshire asked which was my FAVORITE session of the conference. . . It would be difficult to select just one, there were so many that were well done and informative.

If I had to choose a favorite speaker it would have to be John Philip Colletta. I attended all three of his lectures and was blown away with his savvy presentation techniques. He involved the audience immediately and kept our attention for the full hour regardless of the topic. He didn't just explain the concepts he was trying to get across but used examples that were informative and entertaining at the same time. He was able to bring life to dead people! Not only were his presentations interesting and exciting, I actually learned some techniques that can be utilized in my research and took away some ideas that can be used in writing biographical stories of my ancestors and other relatives, particularly pulling descriptive information out of a photograph to paint a word-portrait of a person. Research the time period in which the photograph was taken, investigate every detail to reveal as much as possible about the person or people or place depicted. What clothes they are wearing, their hairstyle, what objects are included in the photograph. I think I really already knew that, but seeing and hearing about the examples he gave really emphasized the importance of studying the photograph, not simply looking at it. Actually, I'd have to say that all three of his lectures were favorites!

Probably the most informative, in terms of brand new knowledge for me, were the two lectures given by Megan Smolenyak. Pretty much because all I previously knew about DNA was how to spell it! Now I know enough to know that I'd like to get my mtDNA tested and will probably approach my brothers to see if they would contribute a sample for DNA testing. I'm still not sure what it would tell us, but I think it is important enough to at least contribute to Sorenson Genomics or the National Geographic Genographic Project.

One of the most exciting sessions for me was "Building a Digital Archive" when Brigham Young University, the Family History Library, and the Allen County Public Library announced their collaboration project for digitizing books, maps, and city directories. Even though I had nothing to do with it, it was neat to be present at the announcement and to see the excitement in the presenters as well as in the audience, which was comprised mostly of librarians and vendors. Much more fun than just reading a press release about it!

You can read more about all of the lectures that I attended:

Monday, August 20, 2007

ACPL Videos Available

Thanks to Dick Eastman's post for this information.

The Allen County Public Library has recently released two videos on YouTube on using the Genealogy Center and some of their resources.

Part One: covers how to use their digital collection and online catalog. It runs for 9 minutes 17 seconds.

Part Two: runs for 7 minutes 30 seconds and covers the local history reading room, the microtext reading room, the family history room, as well as the movable stacks which house the city/county directories and oversize books. Other information helpful for planning a research trip to the center is also included.

Check out both videos, especially if you are planning a visit or even if you are simply curious about their collection.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

FGS Conference - Some Thoughts

Overall I think the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne was one of the best organized that I have attended. The speakers were top notch and the selection of lectures was almost overwhelming. There are really only a couple of complaints I have, and I heard most of them from several other attendees as well.
  1. The 2-hour break between the opening and the first lecture session on Thursday really was not necessary. In my opinion it was a waste of time. And I know of several people who did not attend Thursday morning because of that reason.
  2. The 30 minute break between each session was the longest I've ever seen at any conference. Perhaps at another venue it would have been necessary but the rooms where the lectures were held were within a few minutes walk of each other. There were some lectures held at the library but it was still only about a 2-3 minute walk from the Grand Wayne Center. Fifteen minutes would have been more reasonable, twenty minutes at most.
  3. The 2-hour lunch break was a bit much but I understand it was necessary because of the luncheons offered each day (each at $20 a pop, none of which I attended). It did give me a chance to browse some periodicals at the ACPL and I took a nap in my car on Friday ;-) so the time wasn't really wasted.
  4. I've already mentioned the syllabus, which was 650 pages or so, and is a good resource. But something really needs to be done to offer it optionally in a different format. There are a number of ways it could be done to please those who still want a hard copy. A suggestion made by several people was to provide separate booklets for each day. Perhaps they could reduce the price of the conference for those that are willing to download it or even send a CD to early registrants before the conference. After the second day there were still a lot of people carrying the syllabus around and almost all that I saw had loose pages.

A video of a portion of the opening session of the Conference on Thursday morning is on Dick Eastman's blog. I'm in it ;-) That's my blond head you see in the center of the picture at the bottom of the frame. . . I was sitting in the fourth or fifth row, in front of the podium.

Dick Eastman attended the same session of the FootNote meeting that I did and took a couple of pictures. I'm in two of them though I don't know if he'll post them when he gets around to posting pictures of the conference on his blog. . .

Also attending the same FootNote meeting was Ceil Wendt Jensen. Now, I'm usually not one to go up and introduce myself but got up the nerve to do so this time and am glad I did. Ceil is very pleasant, congenial and easy to talk to. I mentioned that I'd heard of her through a recent post by Jasia (about the podcast Ceil did with Dear Myrtle). In the process I found out that I didn't know how to pronounce "Jasia" as I said it with a "J" which is actually pronounced as a "Y" and the "a" is more like "ah" so it's something like Yah-c-ah. I also discovered what Jasia's real first name is, but I'm not going to tell. . . I made the comment that I rather envy Ceil, Jasia and Steve since I consider myself an ethnically challenged researcher - one with no historical family traditions based on where my ancestors came from. The last of them came over so long ago (1832) that trace of any traditions that might have been have completely disappeared. Ceil suggested that I could become an honorary Pole...

While exploring the exhibit hall one day I had the opportunity to 'help' one of the vendors, who shall remain anonymous, with a slight technical problem he was having. I had stopped at the booth to introduce myself and he mentioned that his laptop had powered itself down after not being used for a while and it was not restarting as it should have. My suggestion was to see if it still had power. . . turns out the power cord had come unplugged from the power strip. He was a bit embarrassed that he hadn't already checked on that but we had a chuckle over it and I went on my way. I'm sure he would have figured it out eventually, but I was amused by the incident, but then I am easily amused.

For information on the lectures I attended, check out my previous posts on the conference:

Links outside this blog:

FGS Conference - Day Four

Yesterday was the final day of the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Out of the ten options that were available for each of the six hour-long sessions for Saturday, these are the lectures that I chose to attend.

For me, the morning started out the same as the previous day ended - with Curt Witcher. His presentation of "Exploring the Crossroads of America: Indiana Records and Repositories" was a whirlwind tour of the Hoosier State. Curt outlined a six-step strategy for Indiana Research: (1) Identify all the local record repositories. This is especially important since many of the records are still located in the counties and communities where they were created. (2) Explore the county sites at Indiana GenWeb. All Indiana counties have a presence at Indiana GenWeb, some have an amazing amount of online data. (3) Visit the three state facilities in Indianapolis, either virtually or in person: The Indiana State Library, The Indiana State Archives, and The Indiana Historical Society. (4) Explore the offerings of the Indiana Genealogical Society (5) Explore the Indiana resources available at FamilySearch (6) Visit the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library! Each of these facilities has their own unique collection of materials.

At 9:30 I decided to forgo the regularly scheduled programming and attended a FootNote Users Meeting. About a dozen people attended this session in the small Boardroom of the Grand Wayne Center. I think I was the only one who was not a vendor or a speaker. Beau Sharbrough, Vice President of Content for FootNote, was the moderator of the meeting. The site was launched on January 10, 2007 and, in addition to the National Archives of the United States, has recently announced partnership agreements with the Family History Library and the Allen County Public Library. The site is not specifically geared toward genealogists in particular. One of their goals is to create and build a community related to History. Individuals can contribute to FootNote by creating story pages with their own personal records, documents, and stories. Individuals can also contribute by creating an annotation to any record - these are added to the online index and appear in search results. Individuals can also leave comments on any page to add to, correct, or enhance information contributed by someone else. You have full control over any information you contribute. There is a process in place for reporting inappropriate content that will then be reviewed by a member of the FootNote team. FootNote has been given exclusive distribution rights to the digital version of "Evidence Explained" by Elizabeth Shown Mills. When someone prints out a document from the FootNote site, the printed copy will contain a source citation that conforms to her criteria. The digital version, fully text searchable in pdf format, is available for about half the cost of the hard copy book.

My morning ended with "Lights, Camera, Action" presented by Tony Burroughs, which was a beginner's crash course on creating a digital video documentary. He emphasized that the software you select will define what you are able to do and how you will be able to do it. If your computer was purchased more than a year ago it probably will not have the processing speed or memory needed for the software to run properly. It probably also won't have a hard drive large enough to store the files that will be created. Tony briefly touched on the other equipment that would be useful, such as lights, cam corder, tripod, basic computer skills, shooting and editing techniques. You don't need video content to create a family documentary as it can be done with still photos and documents in the same manner used by Ken Burns for many of his documentaries. He also showed several examples that he has been working on that are still in the 'draft' stage. The process is labor and time intensive but the results are rewarding and well worth the time and effort.

After meeting up with some friends for lunch, I sat in on "Using Artifacts in Family History Narrative" with John Philip Colletta (again). John pointed out that there are basically three sources of information available about the past: Oral History/Family Lore, Private and Public Records both original and derivative, and Material Culture or Family Artifacts. A portrait of a person (physical traits, character, personality, social standing) can be created by carefully looking at and reviewing the information, photographs, documents, and records that have been collected on a person or family. John used examples from his own family to illustrate what can be gleaned from even the smallest artifact or bit of information. You can't say something was definite but by using terms such as "actions indicate", "it appears that", or "probably" you can infer that it was so and make an interesting narrative in the process.

The lecture with Mr. Colletta was the last one of the day for me. Perhaps, if the offerings had really, really interested me I might have stuck around for the next three hours, but I was very tired and having a very hard time staying awake! For me, the conference was a success. There was a lot to absorb. New ways of looking at age-old techniques. Refresher courses on the basics. Even some brand new stuff. Though tired and weary, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to using some of this new-found knowledge!


FGS Conference - Day Three

These were my lecture selections out of the eleven options that were available for each of the six hour-long sessions on this, the third day of the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

My Friday morning began with "Old and New: Combining the Best of Internet and Traditional Research" by Rhonda R. McClure. She emphasized that the internet is a good thing but not 'everything' is out there. The internet allows us to do more faster, to do things we could not do before it came along. It is not the be all, end all for genealogy research. She continued with examples such as indexes, the IGI, Ancestry, PERSI and Online Catalogs that can and should be used as preparation for onsite or traditional research.

Next up was "Stories that Instruct: Using Case Studies to Teach Genealogy Methodology" with John Philip Colletta, one of my new 'favorite' speakers! He discussed examples of how human drama can be pulled out of documents to illustrate usage of a resource or methodology. Case studies can be used to teach a skill, how to find a particular record, how to use an archives or repository, and how to interpret historical documents. Case studies can help bring records to life.

Rounding out the morning was "Trace Your Roots with DNA" presented by Megan Smolenyak. This was a very basic introduction to Y-DNA which is the most popular type of testing being done. Y-DNA is passed from father to son through each generation thus is useful in conjunction with surname projects. There are different 'resolutions' for testing - the higher the resolution (or number of markers tested) the higher the cost for testing. The results are more reliable and consistent with the higher resolutions. The more people that have the testing done means a greater chance for a match. The important thing to remember is that DNA testing will probably not tell you who your specific ancestor is but it will tell you if you are related to someone else, perhaps someone who has done more research than you have! This session was really good for me because I knew nothing at all about DNA testing.

Megan also started out my afternoon with "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options". In this lecture, she talked briefly about the various DNA tests that are available, primarily mtDNA, which is passed from a mother to each of her children but the sons don't pass it on to their children. This is the second most popular type of testing, after Y-DNA, and is more of a 'deep ancestry' type of testing. The results will tell you which maternal haplogroup to which you belong, i.e. which of the 'Seven Daughters of Eve' you are likely descended from.

Then it was into "The Twilight Zone. . . Strange Web Sites for Family History Research" with Christina Ann Staley. The sites she mentioned will not provide you with any specific data on your ancestors but instead can help you to add meat to their bones and stories to their names. Included were sites such as The Weather Channel (for information on major weather historical events), The Old Farmer's Almanac, old book sellers, the history of costume, The History Channel, and many others.

The last session of the day was "Finding the World with WorldCat" presented by Curt Witcher. The largest bibliographic database in the world, WorldCat includes data on more than one billion items in more than 10,000 libraries and record repositories world-wide! The basic search screen on WorldCat searches across all the fields (metadata) for that term. Use the Advanced Search screen to limit your search to specific fields such as the Title or Author. The search results can be refined to those more relevant to your task at hand. You can find out which libraries have a book of interest and where that library is located and even how far away it is from you. If the book is listed as an available internet resource, i.e. it has been digitized, a clickable link is displayed that allows you to access the online version directly. In many cases the digital version can be printed or downloaded. Curt emphasized that WorldCat should be used in conjunction with the Family History Library since the FHL catalog is not included in WorldCat. The books that the ACPL is digitizing, in the project with the FHL and Brigham Young University that was announced on Thursday, will (eventually) be available as a direct link in WorldCat as well as in the ACPL online catalog. If you are not utilizing WorldCat you are missing out on a huge resource!


Carnival Time!

Jasia has posted the 30th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, the topic is Genealogical Conferences and Seminars. Fantasy or real, humorous or serious - it's an enjoyable ride!

Confirm or Debunk: Family Myths, Legends, and Lore will be the topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy to be hosted by Craig Manson at GeneaBlogie.
Family myths or legends are those widely circulated yet unconfirmed stories that may range from the origin of an ancestor to more complex lore. Everyone who looks into family backgrounds, however we label them, sooner or later comes across the truth or untruth of these myths or legends. What does one do when confronted with evidence contrary to a long-standing family legend? What are some of the legends that the participants have confirmed or debunked or would like to confirm? How did family react to the discovery of the real story? Maybe the real story was even better than the myth? The deadline for submissions is September 1st. Submit your blog article for the next edition using the carnival submission form . Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

FGS Conference - Quick Note

Whether from 'Information Overload' or simply from staying up too late Thursday night, I crashed when I got home last night!! Sat down in my comfy easy chair to rest for a few minutes and promptly dropped off into never-never land. Woke up by a phone call several hours later (thanks C.K.) I got up and went to bed. Still not quite refreshed (I'm not a morning person, never have been) but I'm ready to head off for another exciting day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

FGS Conference - Day Two

The start of the second day of the conference was definitely interesting! As usual during the opening session, key people were introduced and thanked and as Curt Witcher was mentioning the fact that this year is the 30th anniversary of the miniseries made from Alex Haley's Roots, the sounds of "Day-O, Day-O, Daylight come and we wanna go home" was heard throughout the auditorium. At first, it was hard to tell where it was coming from, it sounded like it was all around, and then we saw him, still not know what was going on. Well, turned out it was Chris Haley, the nephew of Alex Haley. He spoke for a few minutes, primarily about Roots Television, where he would be interviewing people throughout the day. Then the proceedings continued.

[my personal opinion: Regardless whether Roots was fact or fiction and whether or not the charges of plagiarism were warranted, you have to admit the impact of Roots on the American psyche and genealogy in particular was tremendous. I'm not going to say that the miniseries was the reason that I got into genealogy, because it wasn't, but it definitely had an impact on my life in other ways.]

The keynote speaker was Dr. Andy Anderson the senior VP and Chief Historian of Wells Fargo who spoke on "The Healing Power of Family History and Genealogy" and I must say, it was very inspirational. A great way to start the day! There was a two-hour break so that everyone could peruse the exhibit and vendor area. Personally, I could have done without that break. So the first lecture session of the day began at 11 a.m., was over an hour later, and then there was another two-hour break for lunch!

The lecture I attended at 11 a.m. was on The New FamilySearch presented by Jim Greene. The initial rollout has already started with the St. Louis and Reno temple districts. It is going to be released to LDS Church members first and, likely within the next two years, will be released for use by the general public. It is going to take a lot of work to 'clean up' the existing information, which came from contributed data and the IGI. The problem is with the fact that there are, in many cases, multiple records for the same person and it can be troublesome to determine if it really is the same person. Their goal is for collaboration to create a "pedigree of mankind" as well as to preserve the records and information. Privacy features are in place to protect the information of living people and they are going to be improving the method for sourcing data. Eventually you will be able to include images of the source documents, if you have them, or links to the documents if they are posted on a website. The interface seemed intuitive and easy to use, although it wasn't a live demo.

It was a tough choice as there were two other lectures I wanted to go to at the same time, but after the lunch break I went to the lecture by John Philip Colletta on "Using Original and Derivative Sources: How to Evaluate Evidence" and was not disappointed. He didn't just explain the concepts of original/derivative sources and primary/secondary information but showed examples and engaged the audience. It was informative and entertaining at the same time. There are relatively few speakers that could talk about anything and you'd learn from them and enjoy it in the process, Mr. Colletta is one of those speakers.

The next session for me was "Working on Tomorrow's Virtual Community Today" by Curt Witcher. Curt is also one of those few speakers who is engaging, informative and enjoyable. I was especially interested in this lecture because it was about the relationship that the Allen County Public Library has established with the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and the WeRelate wiki. Curt didn't really say much about the role that the ACPL is playing in the partnership but we learned about the philosophy behind the relationship and the goals they want to achieve. I'll post more on this in the near future (probably next week) but it is all about collaboration, getting more people involved in genealogy, and free access to information and records.

Going along with the theme of collaboration, cooperation and free access, the next session I attended was very interesting indeed! A panel consisting of Randy Olsen of Brigham Young University, Michael Hall of the Family History Library, and Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library announced and discussed "A Collaborative Digitization Project" which is a continuation of the current BYU project which has just finished digitizing 5,000 family history books from their collections. These have been made available online (see link below) as they were completed. Each of the libraries involved will be able to select what they feel is unique to their collections. There will be checks and balances in place to ensure there is no duplication of effort so they aren't scanning the same item. The project will only include books and periodicals that are in the public domain. If the author of a book under copyright gives written permission then that work could also scanned. Curt stated that the ACPL will concentrate on its collection of Local History books first. BYU will be scanning much of its map collection for inclusion in the project.

You'll be able to search for a book, when you open the book you will then be able to do a full-text search within that book. But what I think is really cool is that the online catalogs of all the libraries involved in the project will be linked together so that when you do a search for a book or periodical you can tell which of them has the physical book and whether or not it has been digitized. If it has been digitized there will be a clickable url to display the digitized version. You can do this now with the Family History Library catalog because the books that have been digitized by BYU already have a clickable link in the catalog entry. But this will be across all the libraries involved. In addition, a fourth library has been brought into the project - the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas. Other libraries may be added in the future.

I'm sure there will be a press release, if there hasn't already been one, with more details on the BYU/FHL/ACPL and Clayton Library project. Exciting times indeed for genealogists and family historians! Three cheers to everyone involved in the project! And three more cheers for collaboration and free access to records and information!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

FGS Conference - Day One

As mentioned in my post on Genealogy Conferences for the Carnival of Genealogy, I'm attending the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne this week and today was the first day of the conference. The printed Syllabus is probably about 650 pages (637 pages covering the sessions and the rest is advertising and informational pages). I'm sure it doesn't weigh more than a couple of pounds but after lugging it around this morning it sure seemed like it weighed at least 10 or 15 pounds! I left it in my car at lunchtime and probably won't be taking it with me the rest of the week either. Too bad they can't provide it on a CD or make it available for download to paying attendees.

Anyway, it was 'Society Management' day but there was also a Librarian's track as well as the APG Professional Management portion of the conference. "Societies Going Virtual" was the topic of the keynote address by David Rencher, former FGS President. His premise was that societies must shift from a paper centric model to a virtual one and that societies are going to be challenged by this change. Societies need to find some way to serve the needs of distance members as well as local members while maintaining the viability of their society regardless of the type of society, whether local, regional, national, ethnic, etc. In addition they must adopt some of the new technologies such as on-demand publishing, email newsletters, webinars, podcasts, social networks, etc. to help meet those needs. Essentially, his message for societies was "Go Virtual or Perish!"

The lecture I selected, out of the six available, in the next hour was "The Role of the Genealogical Society in the 21st Century" which was presented by Jana Sloan Broglin. I've had the pleasure of hearing Jana speak several times before and she always puts her own unique spin on things. Jana essentially picked up where David left off with some specific ideas for publishing, programs, and society websites and what they can offer members.

In the following session, since I'd heard some of the other lectures (or similar ones) at other conferences, I chose "Where is the Book with My Family in It?" presented by Drew Smith. Drew is an engaging speaker and showed several ways to find out what may have already been done on the families you're researching. Resources such as the Family History Library, the Library of Congress, and WorldCat as well as local libraries, Google Book Search, online bookstores, and PERSI can all be used to help locate those previously published family books.

During the lunch break a lot of people went across the street to the Allen County Public Library. The Genealogy Center was quite busy, to say the least. After the two-hour lunch break, I started the afternoon off with "Inform, Promote, and Expand: Keeping Your Society's Website Alive" with D. Joshua Taylor. Some of the ideas he mentioned were virtual tours, a what's new page, research guides for your area, and finding aids.

Next up was Michael Ritchey who demonstrated a new feature that is being tested and evaluated as part of FamilySearch. You won't find information on specific individuals with this new feature but it is going to be a good tool for locating resources. It is still in the development and testing phase so it will be a while before it is available.

My selection for the final session of the day was "Seeking Your Comfort Zone As You Approach Different Repositories" presented by Paula Stuart-Warren. Although I have done research onsite is some courthouses and libraries outside of Whitley County, it has been a while and I've never ventured into some of the larger repositories. I thought Paula's lecture would be a good refresher, and I was right. Basically, advance preparation is the key to a successful research trip. Be not afraid to go where you've never been before!

I chose not to attend the Open Forum scheduled for 7:00-8:30 p.m. since it's an hours drive from the Library to where I live...

Well, as I was just going through the syllabus looking at the various sessions that are scheduled for tomorrow, several pages separated from the binding. It's a large soft-bound volume and bending the spine to get it to lay flat probably didn't help any! I'm thinking maybe I'll just go ahead and separate the pages for tomorrow sessions and punch holes in them to fit in a small 3-ring binder, at least for those sessions where I'm having a tough time deciding which lectures to attend!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Shuder Family Mystery

The following records simply confirm information we already knew but they don't answer the questions as to whether Mary Tabitha Elzora Shuder was actually the daughter of Isaac Shuder and Nancy Jane Lavering or whether Noah Evert Long was the son of Mary Tabitha and John H. Long!

Mary Tabitha was born January 1, 1873 but Isaac and Nancy Jane were not married until October 26, 1875. Isaac would have been 29 years old when they married, Nancy was 20.

Noah Evert was born February 4, 1893 but Mary Tabitha "Dora" Shuder and John H. Long were not married until October 25, 1896.

For more information on this family mystery, please see my previous post "A new-found Cousin or Not?" Click on the images below to enlarge them.

The record on the left (above) shows that a marriage license was issued on October 25, 1875 to Isaac Schuder with consent of Daniel Lavering. Isaac Schuder and Nancy Jane Lavering were married on October 26, 1875. Elkhart County, Indiana Marriage Book 4 page 379.

On the right (above) is the marriage record that shows Dora Shuder married John H. Long on the 25th day of October 1896. Kosciusko County, Indiana Marriage Book K page 348.

On the left: Mary Tabitha Elzora Long married Walter L. Davis on November 8, 1926. Elkhart County, Indiana Marriage Book 35 page 618. The record shows that she was born in Kosciusko Co., Ind. on Jany 1, 1873; she resided in Middlebury, Ind.; her father was Isaac Shuder and her mother was Jane Lavering. It also shows that she was married once before and the marriage was dissolved by death on Sept. 16, 1920.

On the right: The marriage record of Noah Evert Long was on the next page (page 619). They were both married by S. S. Whisler a Justice of the Peace. Noah's record shows that he was born at Oswego, Kosciusko Co., Ind. on Feby 4, 1893; he resided in Middlebury, Ind. and was a Farmer; his father was John H. Long and his mother was Mary Tabitha Elzora Shudder.