Sunday, January 30, 2011

Digital Publishing For Genealogy

I just bought my first published eBook. It was Online State Resources for Genealogy compiled by Michael Hait. I have long been interested in eBooks. About a decade ago I made a small investment in stock in FatBrain. I believe it was Barnes & Noble that acquired FatBrain. That might be a genealogy worth documenting someday. 

This post is not a review of Hait's book. It was only published yesterday and I just discovered it about an hour ago. However, it seems to be an ideal candidate for the digital format. Hait uses a vehicle I use in my genealogy research classes. I give students a handout of links. At the same time  the students are encouraged to login to my website and follow along at their computer workstations. That way they only have the initial URL for that lesson to type in. The individual sites can be accessed by clickable links--a great time saver of valuable class time. In a similar manner Hait provides links to the resources listed in his book. He invites readers to notify him of broken links and links he should have included. This will be a great way to keep the book up-to-date. It has been said that Cyndi Howells' biggest challenge today is fixing broken links on her massive resource Cyndi's List.

it seems to me that digital publishing is gaining critical mass at an accelerating pace. Two venerable genealogical reference books that have long been staples of any genealogy library reference collection are The Source and the Red Book.

When I visited headquarters last April, I notice that each employee had a copy of these two books right next to their computer monitor. It was about at that time that Ancestry announced that these resources would only be made available digitally from then on. 

Most of us are aware of the number of genealogical periodicals that are converting to digital only distribution or ceasing publication altogether. Like all evolution, some "progress" is easy to embrace. Other "progress" is more painful. A variously attributed and slightly altered phrase comes to mind. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. With that admonishment in mind, it would appear we are witnessing a significant change in the way genealogical information is published and we need to make sure we take advantage of the opportunities it provides.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Week of February -- A Treat for Genealogists?

Genealogists on the California Central Coast are in for a treat the first week of February--at least some of us are.

1. On Tuesday February 1st, I get to start teaching my European Genealogy Research class

2. On Friday February 4th, NBC airs the first episode the second season of Who Do You Think You Are? at 8:00 PM featuring Vanessa Williams. Seven other episodes will feature Steve BuscemiKim CattrallAshley JuddTim McGrawRosie O'DonnellGwyneth Paltrow, and Lionel Richie.

3. On Saturday February 5th, the San Luis Obispo County Genealogy Society sponsors a Family History Day featuring 4 presentations by George Ott, a Salt Lake City based genealogist who is extremely knowledgeable and a very good presenter. 

4. On Sunday February 6th comes the Super Bowl. The Bears didn't quite get there this year, but Joyce and Harold's annual Super Bowl party is always the social highlight of the year on Laurel Avenue in Morro Bay.

If you don't live on the Central Coast, you can still watch Who Do You Think You Are? and the Super Bowl. Remember the ads on the Super Bowl are sometimes better than the game. You can also take the Pictures In History challenge. Have a great week where ever you are!

Is AOL Scamming Its Customers?

Dick Eastman just posted the following to his blog which confirms a vague suspicion I have had for a while:

PC Magazine has an interesting article about an unethical business practice of AOL with many senior citizens in its list of victims. Since I see a LOT of AOL email addresses amongst the subscribers of this newsletter, I thought I would suggest you double-check your AOL bills. Dan Costa writes in a PC Magazine article:, of course, is free. It used to be a pay service, but has been free for years. You can access the, read all of its content, and check your e-mail without paying a dime. If you already pay for an account, however, AOL will continue to bill you. And evidently, that makes AOL a LOT of money.
You can read the full article at:,2817,2376166,00.asp

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where Did Our Foreign Born Come From?

We tend to think of our country as being made up of immigrants primarily from Europe. Yes there were the enslaved Africans. However recent arrivals are much more likely to be from Latin America and Asia.
Almost 30% of the foreign born population of our country in 2009 was born in Mexico. No European country broke into the top eleven birth locations. Five of the top seven countries were from Asia. Canada, at number 9, was the only country outside Latin America and Asia to make the top 11.

The times, they are changing! Makes me wonder why I am teaching European Genealogy Research. In another generation the demographics of family history researchers will be very different.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Free Genetic Genealogy for Beginners: DNA is the “Gene” in Genealogy!

Today's post is a re-post from Elise Friedman about a free webinar she is offering tomorrow:

If you don’t know the first thing about Genetic Genealogy, or even if you’ve heard about it, but don’t know which test you should take, this presentation is for you! Attendees will learn about the history of genetic genealogy, be introduced to DNA basics and inheritance paths, learn about the different types of DNA tests available for genealogy (Y-DNA, mtDNA and Autosomal), and learn about resources that will help you make the most of your Genetic Genealogy experience.

If you'd like to attend, please click the following link to pre-register:

For information about future webinars, please see my website:


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cleveland Public Cemetery Records Online

Those of you who have ancestors who may have died in Cleveland will want to check the new database created by the East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society, As reported by Dick Eastman in a recent issue of his newsletter, the database contains almost 359,000 records from the publically owned cemeteries in Cleveland. More than half that total come from just 2 cemeteries—Highland Park and Woodland. The dates covered vary. Some are from as early as 1813 (Alger); and others (Woodland) extend up to 2001. Dick says, “The online records typically include not only when and where the deceased died, but also how the person died, how old they were when they died, where they lived, who the undertaker was, and the date they were buried.” Cemetery plot maps are included and will be valuable if you find an ancestor and wish to visit their burial site.
If you use the All Cemeteries Cumulative Index, you may want to use your browser's "Find" command to quickly locate names of interest after you have opened the appropriate image.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Carlsbad Public Library

Right after leaving the LA Regional Family History Center (yesterday’s post), I drove down the coast to Carlsbad in Northern San Diego County. The contrast between my feelings for each of these facilities was very striking. I was reminded of a story I heard when I was in graduate school.

At an esteemed university several renowned scholars got together for a drink each Friday afternoon. Each occupied an endowed chair in his own discipline. When one arrived one Friday he asked his colleague on his left, “Could you make up a list of the indispensible resources that should be in our campus library to support research in your discipline?” The professor answered very assertively, “Yes, of course.” In turn the questioner repeated his question to every person at the table and got similar answers from all. Then he asked, “Would your list be the same if you were at Harvard?” The responses were all positive. “What about Yale?” “Columbia?” “Urbana?” “Berkeley?” In each case the answers were uniformly positive and increasingly emphatic.

Then the questioner made a profound proposal. He suggested that each of them make up such a list and give it to the University Librarian with a request that all the items on it be removed. Why should their library have what everyone else had available elsewhere? By removing this duplication, it would be easier to get access to the unique research materials in the collections.

Libraries like the one proposed above could well be worth travelling to in order to find unique resources not commonly available on the Internet or even through the network of Family History Centers such as the one in West LA. In my brief visit, it appeared that the Carlsbad Public Library might have such items in its collection. It also has a wide array of programs and at least one very helpful and pleasant staff member. I found a few useful items in the hour I had before I needed to leave to pick up a friend at the San Diego airport. While I was there I had the feeling that research was going on around me. Maybe it was 20th century research but it felt very comfortable. The displays of current genealogy periodicals and ambiance made me want to return and spend much more time there.

Please post a comment below and describe a library that gives you a similar feeling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The New LA Regional Family History Center

Last week I drove through Southern California on my way to the American Library Association Conference in San Diego. Along the way, I had the opportunity to visit two genealogy libraries. The first was the recently reopened and thoroughly renovated West LA Regional Family History Center. This is a facility that I had used many times over the last two decades until it was closed for renovation a couple of years ago. The facility I entered on Thursday was definitely changed from what I had experienced there previously. That changed experience started when I viewed the new website. There was so much information on it I couldn’t easily find what I was looking for and the flashing elements were distracting. Since I had the bad sense to use Firefox as my browser, the “New Hours of Operation” were not immediately visible without scrolling down the page.

The facility was much brighter and aesthetically pleasing. It’s amazing how much light those books used to absorb. There were plenty of workstations and comfortable, light weight task chairs. There were two high tech classrooms for teleconferencing and live instruction as well. But gone were most of the microforms and many of the books. They had been returned to Salt Lake City to be digitized or otherwise reused. In the long term focus that FamilySearch tries to use in making up its business I suppose this all makes sense. However, I left feeling that I wouldn’t be eager to return any time soon.

In many ways this new approach levels the playing field between the relatively resource rich big city and the remote and more rural community where I live. The digitization process is beginning to provide anywhere, anytime access to records if one is plugged into the bandwidth necessary to access them. For that I am very grateful. However, the reason to return to that particular facility has greatly diminished. For the most part I can conduct the same research from home or from the tiny Family History Center in San Luis Obispo without enduring the LA freeway traffic. That’s not all bad. However, more about this in my next post which will be about my other library experience that day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vanessa Williams Stars in the First Episode of WDYTYA?

Who Do You Think You Are? kicks of its second season on February 4th with an episode which features Vanessa Williams' search for her roots. The show will air on NBC at 8:00 PM (7:00 Central).

Genealogy Happens in San Diego

Kim Harrison (left), and Michelle Enke of the planning committee surround Ron Arons who was one of speakers at the Genealogy Happens at the Genealogy Reference Desk (see my previous post of December 11th) pre-conference held in San Diego on January 7. Does it look like Kim, of, is making a transition to the other side? Michelle, of the Wichita Public Library, clearly is not making the transition to convict any time soon.

Ron and the other three speakers were all interesting and informative.  The other speakers were: 
David Rencher, Director of the Libraries Division of the Family History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;
Drew Smith, Genealogy Guy; and
Curt Witcher, Manager, Historical Genealogy Department, Allen County (Ind.) Public Library. 
When I attend an event like this, I usually believe it was time well spent if half of the presenters are good. In this case, all four of them "hit it out of the park" on both content and presentation. Actually, I should have said all five. Bill Forsyth of Proquest presented a case study over lunch that was equally outstanding.

Look for other events planned by this committee coming in June in New Orleans, next January in Dallas and Anaheim in June of 2012. These events are scheduled on Friday before the beginning of the conferences of the American Library Association. They are very useful to both those searching their own families and library workers who help genealogy searchers.

Monday, January 3, 2011

NGS 2011, Charleston, SC

Check out the offerings at the upcoming National Genealogical Conference in May in Charleston, SC. This event is a true treasure trove of information and activities for family history researchers. The program is worth reading whether or not you plan to attend:

If you are not sure what to expect at an NGS Conference, the short linked video will give you a sampling.

2010 Census

I know this is not what you as a genealogist would like to know about the 2010 Census. The household and individual data will not be released until 2082 because of privacy concerns. However, what is now available is pretty nifty. Unfortunately, my skill as a blog designer does not allow me to display this widget fully. However, if you click on a year in the decade bar at the bottom and scroll your cursor over the over one of the few states I was able to display, you will get some idea of the interactive features available. 

For the full effect and to be able to see all states, go to the US Census site. Additional information is available at a partner site set up by the American Library Association.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Learning Objectives for 2011

Below are some of my genealogical learning objectives for 2011. They are not quite New Year Resolutions but they are similar. If I have a plan I am more likely to learn about these ancestors.

1.  Sarah (?) Moore Savatier: This is my great-great-grandmother about whom I wrote in yesterday’s post. I would like to find out more about her life.

2.  Alvina Wilson’s death: My 92 year old father-in-law just told me that when his grandmother was dying she sent him to run and find his father who was at work a couple of blocks away. He would have been 6 years old. I want to see if I can verify whether this could have happened this way. She died of bladder cancer and had previously worked at the Elgin Watch Factory.

3.  C J Dowell’s death: A distant cousin contacted me to verify an oral tradition that a Dowell had been a mean drunk and had shot a killed who stood up to him. I have found a death certificate listing a cause of death as a shotgun wound to the head. I now want to find other details.

4.  German origins: My wife had 5 great-grandparents come from the general area of Prussia/Germany between 1867 1892. I would like to pick up trails on the other side of the Atlantic.

5.  Middle Eastern Origins: According to my Population Finder results from FTDNA, indicates my DNA is 91% from Western Europe and 9% from the Middle East.

I suspect part of the Middle East DNA is from Ana-Baptist ancestors whose paternal lines may have migrated late from the area of Egypt around the Mediterranean and were in Switzerland before 1600. I want to know more.

6.  Fritz’s haplotype: My daughter-in-law’s great-great-grandfather was born in Stoberau, Schlesien and appears to have an unusual haplotype about which I want to learn more.

7.  CeCe Moore, Your Genetic Genealogist, and I appear to share a common female ancestor based on an exact FGS mitochondrial match (see my posts of December 27th and April 17th; and CeCe’s post of December 31st.) I would like to explore our maternal lines in more detail.

8.  My wife has overlapping matches on Chromosome 10 on her autosomal DNA test at 23andMe with several potential relatives. I want to learn what this could mean.

9.  Continue my long and frustrating search for the parents of my earliest confirmed Dowell ancestor Philip Dowell who appeared in Maryland as a tobacco planter in the 1690s and Mary McDaniel who married his grandson “Revolutionary” Richard Dowell in North Carolina. The McDaniels are particularly intriguing as I have several close Y-chromosome matches with men of that surname.

10. Renew my search for the parents of four female ancestresses, Nancy Shedd, Susannah Munroe, Amy Hall and Mary Ann Shover, who married into various of my lines early in the 19th century.

What are your research goals for 2011? If you focus of specific objectives and define specific plans, you will improve your chances for success.

Have genealogical success in 2011!