Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Marriage Statistics Forebode Genealogical Crisis

Jane Seymour (left) became Henry's third wife, pictured right with Henry and the young Prince Edward, c.1545, by an unknown artist. At the time that this was painted, Henry was married to his sixth wife, Catherine Parr.
Marriage records are one of the fundamental cornerstones of genealogical research. The main reason for this importance is the fact that the marriage relationship affects property rights and inheritance. Even if we ignore the long term social and cultural implications of a declining marriage rate and an increasing divorce rate, as genealogists we cannot ignore the difficulties researchers will have in determining any sort of lineage from a lack of marriage records. Recent news stories that claim some courts will allow the service of divorce actions by means of should also be a cause for alarm. See the recent Time magazine post entitled, "You Can Now Serve Divorce Papers on Facebook." See also the JSTOR article entitled, "Divorce in the U.S.A."

Even if the laws in the United States are restructured to accommodate the increase in out-of-wedlock unions, the reality is that the lack of a formalized relationship will make discovering lineage very difficult for the offspring. This same situation has existed since antiquity, but the scope and scale of the changes in U.S. society are unprecedented. In a recent Pew Research Center post entitled, "Record share of Americans Have Never Married, stated as follows:
The dramatic rise in the share of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap are related to a variety of factors. Adults are marrying later in life, and the shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside of marriage have increased significantly. The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960. About a quarter (24%) of never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 are living with a partner, according to Pew Research analysis of Current Population Survey data. See also U.S. Census Bureau table MS-2. ( and Analysis is based on March 2013 Current Population Survey.
Documenting a population that has no formal marriage records may become impossible.

DPLA Hydra-in-a-box to impact record availability

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a portal that delivers students, teachers, scholars, and the public to incredible resources, wherever they may be in America. It presently links over 10 million digital items. The Hydra-in-a-box initiative will dramatically increase the resources available through this valuable portal. The program is described in a blog post dated 15 April 2015 entitled, "Far-reaching “Hydra-in-a-Box” Joint Initiative Funded by IMLS."
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Stanford University, and the DuraSpace organization are pleased to announce that their joint initiative has been awarded a $2M National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Nicknamed Hydra-in-a-Box, the project aims foster a new, national, library network through a community-based repository system, enabling discovery, interoperability and reuse of digital resources by people from this country and around the world. 
This transformative network is based on advanced repositories that not only empower local institutions with new asset management capabilities, but also interconnect their data and collections through a shared platform. 
“At the core of the Digital Public Library of America is our national network of hubs, and they need the systems envisioned by this project,” said Dan Cohen, DPLA’s executive director. “By combining contemporary technologies for aggregating, storing, enhancing, and serving cultural heritage content, we expect this new stack will be a huge boon to DPLA and to the broader digital library community. In addition, I’m thrilled that the project brings together the expertise of DuraSpace, Stanford, and DPLA.”
Many of the resources already on the DPLA are of value to genealogists. This is a good time to check out this fast growing portal service.

Protect your genealogy files with data migration

Data migration is the process of moving data stored in older programs to newer formats. For example, you may have failed to upgrade your genealogy software and are still using an older version of some program. The data created by that older program is at risk because the newer versions may not always be able to read the old files. Suppose your old computer finally dies and you have to buy a new computer. You have been diligent in backing up all your files and think you have nothing to worry about. Except for one thing, the old version of your genealogy program no longer runs on the new operating system of the new computer. So, you buy a copy of the latest version of your genealogy program and find out that the new version does not read your old files.

This scenario seems to happen more frequently with people who only use their computer occasionally for genealogy. Those of us who are immersed in the online computer world have hopefully learned to keep up with the updates. In fact, as I write this post, my laptop is downloading yet another Microsoft update.

There is a cycle to the updates to the various programs. Genealogy programs are no exception. The computer chip manufacturers are constantly developing newer, faster and smaller chips to run the computers. New chips generally require new operating systems. New operating systems further require the various developers to upgrade their programs. These upgrades are different from the ones the companies do to correct bugs in the programs and add new features. But regardless of the reason, there is a constant pressure to upgrade programs. When you buy a computer and start using it, you, in essence, buy into this stream of upgrades.

Many people resent the fact that they have to upgrade their programs constantly. They view computers as a one-time static investment. In fact, computers are more like paying rent. There are constant costs associated with ownership and use of a computer. These charges have increased with the advent of the Internet and subscription software services. With many programs, you have to pay a periodic fee (subscription price) to use the program. In this case, the company usually supplies the upgrades as part of the subscription price. For example, this is how I currently use all of my products such as Photoshop. I pay a monthly fee for access to all the programs and the upgrades come automatically with no added cost. This is essentially the same as using an online genealogy database such as or The benefit is I get to use the programs without worrying about paying for upgrades because I am already paying.

If you have stored away copies of your old files on floppy disks or CDs or some other media, you may find that the hardware has changed and the old media is no longer recognizable. This turns out to be one of the more common problems. I finally threw away all my old boxes of floppy disks. There is a slight chance that I lost some data in the process, but because I was constantly moving my files to new devices and computers, I am pretty confident that everything is still on my computer and hard drives today.

Data migration is not just a personal issue. It is the subject of major concern to libraries, archives and anyone stores data from computer programs.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Three Grandmothers

While I was tagging photos from the Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson Photographic Collection, I came across this unusual photo that remarkably has three of my grandmothers in the same photo. At the left is Eva Margaret Overson Tanner, my paternal grandmother. Above to the right is my Great-grandmother, Eva's mother, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. Sitting on the front row is my maternal Great-grandmother, Mary Ann Linton Morgan. Mary Ann Lintion Morgan was the widow of my Great-grandfather John Morgan and had remarried David King Udall. The photo was likely taken before 1920 in St. Johns, Apache, Arizona. My parents, all four of my grandparents and all but one of my great-grandparents lived in St. Johns at some time or another. This is the first and only photo I have of Mary Ann Linton Morgan while she was living in Hunt, Apache, Arizona outside of St. Johns.

More Irish Genealogy Resources

One of my good online friends in Australia, Wayne, sent me a list of links to Irish websites in an email. I asked his permission to expand somewhat on the list and include his list with my additions in a blog post, to which he graciously consented. 

There are several half-myths that circulate in the genealogical community in addition to the long list of full-blown myths. Some of those half-myths address the issue of record availability in various parts of the world. In the U.S. we have the "burned county" or "my ancestors' records were lost in a courthouse fire" half-myth. While there are records lost in courthouse fire, it is ridiculous to suppose that all of the records in a county were kept in the courthouse. Likewise, there is a half-myth that records in Ireland have been destroyed. Yes, there are some notable instances of record loss, such as the destruction of the Public Records Office (PRO or PRONI) on 30 June 1922. If you want to see why this is a half-myth go to the Irish Genealogy Toolkit post entitled, "All Irish genealogy records were destroyed in the 1922 fire: Myth or fact?

Rather than moan and groan and wring our hands over the loss of records in the past, how about simply moving on and taking advantage of the huge numbers of records that are still available?

Here is the consolidated list of websites:

You might first want to see the long list of websites from the National Archives of Ireland which includes many of the following links. Some of the links below also have extensive lists of additional websites. I have not, at all, tried to include every website so listed. - has an extensive collection of Irish records including Ireland Census 1821-1851, Ireland Census Search Forms 1841 & 1851, Griffith's Valuation 1847-1864, Landed Estates Court Rentals 1850-1885, and the The Elliott Collection - See the FamilySearch Catalog for both online and microfilm resources.

Emerald Ancestors at

Ulster Historical Foundation at

Society of Genealogists Northern Ireland at   with this note from my friend in Australia: "this one I found the link below to a French site Gallica that has a ton of info on some of my ancestors in the way of PDFs etc , in French of course but I send them via translate a document (google translate) or google docs."

Gallica at  Again quoting: "I say give this a try for some info you just never know."

Ballymoney Ancestry at

Belfast Family History at

Church records listed by the Irish Genealogy website at

Irish Ancestral Research Association at

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On non-specific comments and spam

There seems to be an increasing trend by marginal companies to attempt to advertise their presence by automatically spamming comments out to blog posts. I got one series of such bogus comments that had been added to almost a dozen past posts simultaneously. If you are writing a blog, you may be flattered when some comment comes in praising your posts, but in fact the commentator is not a real person but is merely a program advertising a product and the program is frequently unable to write coherent English sentences.

I review every comment before it is posted to my blogs. Unless I happen to know the commentator, I will delete any non-specific comment before publication. You will have to excuse me, if in the past, I have deleted your heart-felt praise for my work, but unless you include something specific about the post that makes sense, I will summarily delete your comment and any associated fines. I did get a malware email the other day that managed to instal a Trojan Horse file on my computer before I could delete it. Fortunately, my next line of defense took over and advised me that the spam comment had been posted and where it was located and the bad file was deleted.

How do I know the comment is malware? Usually there is a dead giveaway if the comment is made to a very old post and contains a reference to an unrelated website such as a real estate office or some other business. It is not necessary that the comment contain a link, the fact that the name of the business is spread into a lot of websites is what they are trying to achieve.

So, if you are making a comment, be specific. Be sure to mention something from the post. If you are writing a blog, be sure and at least review every comment before it is posted and if there is a way, which there is, to prevent the comments from being automatically posted, use the programs. Of course, the simple way to prevent auto-posts is to require the recognition of an image file before posting, but I like to look at the comments, bad or good, because sometimes I get some good topics out of the comments.

Seven Genealogy Related Ideas That Might Make Your Life Easier

Here are some of the shortcuts, ideas and procedures I have used to cut down the time it takes me to work on my computer. If you know about these things, it just might make your life easier.

Number One:
Use Voice Recognition software to enter large amounts of text. This is probably one of the best high-tech developments that has affected my ability to use the computer. I often feel pressed for time. When I do, I plug in my microphone and begin using Dragon Dictate on my iMac. The PC version of this program is called Dragon Naturally Speaking. As I have written previously, I began to be fascinated with this technology back in 1962 at the Seattle World's Fair. Even today, the technology is not perfect but the accuracy of the voice recognition allows me to enter text much faster than I could using the keyboard even taking into account the need to proofread carefully for words that were misinterpreted by the software. I accomplish the editing process by carefully watching what goes on the screen as I speak the words.

Number Two:
 I would guess that the second most important technological innovation that affects my ability to do genealogy is the effective use of the Google search engine. I am always surprised at how few people have tapped into the tremendous power and innovative support offered by Google. If you would like to find out some of the innovative ways the program can be used, you need to carefully examine the Google Inside Search website. It may seem like a trivial issue but I use Google search to define terms almost constantly. I do this by typing in the word "define" followed by a space and the word that I want defined. Likewise, whenever I encounter a foreign word, phrase or website, I can use the Google Translate program to translate the unfamiliar term into English from over 60 languages. When searching for documents in languages other than English, I use Google Translate to translate the search terms into the target language.

Number Three:
I have almost completely moved from using a mouse to using a trackpad. Presently, I only use a mouse if a trackpad is not available. However, I have converted from mouse to trackpad because I like the Apple trackpad. If I had to use only a trackpad on a PC laptop, I would probably still be using a mouse. The trackpad is faster and less stressful on my wrist and arm. It took me more than a year to transition completely away from a mouse, but now the transition is complete.

Number Four:
Learn how to effectively use the keyboard. Many older people involved in genealogy do not have basic keyboarding skills. There are programs that teach keyboarding (typing) in a fun way. It is painful to watch someone who is motivated to doing genealogical research struggle with the basics of finding the keys. If you want to overcome this disability, try the old standard program, the Mavis Beacon Typing Tutor.

Number Five:
Practice, practice, practice. Using a computer is a skill. If you are motivated to do genealogical research, then using a computer is now an essential tool. If you have disabilities that restrict your use of the a keyboard, see Number One above.

Number Six:
Learn how to use maps and the online mapping resources. Valuable genealogical records were created at or near the time of the event by the record keeping jurisdiction. I have found that many of the so-called brick wall issues faced by researchers comes from a failure to begin researching in the right place. Identifying the place is the key to finding pertinent records.

Number Seven:
Expand your view of your ancestors to include their social, cultural and historical environment. Who were their neighbors? Who were their friends? What schools did they go to, if any? What fraternal organizations were they associated with? What language did they speak? What other organizations did they belong to? Genealogy is not a list of names and dates. We have moved beyond the pedigree chart phase of our genealogical childhood and now we need to grow up and learn to expand our interests.

I can probably think of more related ideas. But right now it is time to move to another topic.