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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DNA Test Update

You may have forgotten, but I have not. I am still anticipating the return of the DNA test that I sent in recently. I did get the above email notice on the date of this post. I did look at the tracking website and saw where the kit had been received.

The time estimate is four to six weeks, so I still have quite a wait. I will keep everyone advised of any progress.

Alert! Is Your Private Information Online?

The genealogical community was recently bombarded by an email solicitation to join a "new" online family tree program. The request got a lot of coverage on Facebook and other social media outlets as well as national news coverage. The come-on for the advertisement was that the program already had your information, including a lot of information some genealogists might consider to be "private." I got some frantic inquiries regarding the "private information" on the website. Here is a screenshot of a news post by a TV station about the website.

This is a classic example of trying to close the barn door after the horses have already escaped. The "scary amount of personal address and family information" on the website is nothing more or less than what has been available for years as "public record" information in the United States. For example, here is another screenshot of a catalog listing from

Note that this collection, which includes 875,617,093 records is described as follows:
These records were generated from telephone directories, property tax assessments, credit applications, and other records available to the public.
The last part of the description refers to "other records available to the public." These records do, in fact, contain personal addresses and family information. Why would you believe that your home address was private? Did you check your mailbox recently? Have you never received one piece of "junk mail" in you life? Today, we got the mail and everything was junk mail except bills. We now seldom get any "real" mail. Almost all my communication comes through the internet.

Yes, you read the number of records in the Public Records collection on right. There really are more than 875 million records in that one collection and the same records are on the other major genealogy website. Oh, by the way, the same type of information is available on county assessor websites, phone directory websites, directory websites and many other types of websites on the internet. Most people would be astonished to see the amount of information that is freely available concerning every last person, man, woman, and child, in the United States.

If you were to write to any of these websites and "demand" that your information be removed, you would be bailing the ocean with a teaspoon. Every time you use a checking account, pay a bill, use a charge card, apply for a loan, buy anything anywhere, travel, use electricity or obtain any type of service including going into a homeless shelter, you are recorded and the information is then generally available. If you walk or drive around in a big city, you are likely being captured on a camcorder. You might also want to know that the United States does not have nearly the degree of surveillance of other countries such as England.

Privacy at a "public" level is a myth and as genealogists we directly benefit from the lack of privacy by having access to a number of very useful databases.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Updated February 2017 BYU Family History Library Webinar Series

The Brigham Young University Family History Library webinar series has an updated schedule. The times are all Mountain Daylight Time. The schedule shows the times of the live broadcasts. You can go to the schedule page by clicking here. You tune into the live broadcasts from the links on the schedule. All of the webinars are recorded and are then uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. In addition to the webinars, the Library will be uploading shorter training videos. If you would like to receive a notice when new videos are uploaded, be sure to subscribe to the Channel.

Here is an example of a recent, very popular video. At the time of this post there are more than 230 videos and the number will continue to increase every week.

Getting the Most from the Search Function on FamilySearch - Kathryn Grant

If you have a suggestion for a topic please let me know by leaving a comment on this post or any other post.

Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

By Unknown - Original source: Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. / United States. / States / New York / New York City / Stereoscopic views of parks, squares and cemeteries in New York City (Approx. 72,000 stereoscopic views : 10 x 18 cm. or smaller.) digital recordThis image is available from the New York Public Library's Digital Library under the digital ID G91F189_006F: → digitalcollections.nypl.orgThis tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.বাংলা | English | français | Nederlands | русский | Türkçe | 中文 |+/−, Public Domain,
Grant's Tomb, now formally known as General Grant National Memorial, is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant (1826–1902). See Wikipedia: Grant's Tomb. So why is there a long running joke about the contents of the tomb? Well, in reality, no one is buried in Grant's Tomb. Here is a quote from the Quote Investigator website:
Sticklers for accuracy have noted that the bodies of Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are not actually below ground in the mausoleum. Hence, strictly speaking, no one is buried in Grant’s tomb. Perhaps responses of this type may have inspired humorists to create absurdist questions.
The Quote Investigator reports that the original quote was found to come from the following source:
The earliest evidence of this humorous question appeared in a syndicated newspaper column by the comedian and actor Ed Wynn who often used the persona of “The Perfect Fool”. In September 1925 the column “Ed Wynn’s Question Box: He Knows All – He Sees All” printed several interrogatives with a comic edge.
Of course, you know what this has to do with genealogy. You might also be interested to know that has 124 people with the name "Ulysses S. Grant." has 408 people with that name. There are also 301 people in the Family Tree with that name and 177,020 results for a search for the name on Finally, there are 1,002 people with the name that show up on Findmypast. com and many, many more in another search on You can likely see why we might have a problem with duplicate entries.

So, without qualification, there are thousands of "right" answers. This also points up the danger of assuming that someone with the same name is the same person.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Heredis Genealogy Software Launches New Version for 2017

[Note: Apparently, the new version of the program is not yet ready in German as of the date of this post. Check the website for updates on availability.]

The Heredis Genealogy program from France is the most popular software program in Europe. You really do need to take a serious look at Heredis 2017 if you are maintaining a local, computer-based genealogy program. The program is in French, German and English. If you go to the website and find it in French, you might want to translate it into English with Google Translate.

Heredis 2017 has a new and unique dashboard feature. Here is a description of the new feature.
There was a time when genealogists had to make an effort to find out where they had stopped in their genealogy, to find what they had done lately. Or to know which branch they were working on with their current research. Which ancestors had they already found? Which actions did they lack?

Now that time is over. With the Dashboard, at a glance, genealogists know where they are: what they have already found and what they still have to do.

Like a real on board computer, genealogists conduct their genealogical activities very easily. They note their progression: the genealogical and demographic statistics give them valuable indications. Detailed information enables them to analyze their file in depth and to measure the progress of their work, to check the completeness of their sources, to identify what remains to be done and to identify goals. Also, genealogists can customize this workspace by following only the indicators or widgets they have chosen.
The program is extremely feature filled, but at the same time, it is easy to use. Heredis shows an extensive array of relationships on their family tree such as step, adopted and other types of relationships. This feature makes it easy to see blended or extended families.

I have to admit that the Heredis staff struggle a little with the English language in their promotional materials, but the program is entirely in English and is relatively easy to use. There are all the kinds of features that you could want in a genealogy database program. As an important feature, the program runs on both Windows and Mac OS operating systems as well as Android and iOS devices. It also shares its data files over all of these devices. Here are some notes on the versions, pricing, and availability.
For the Windows version: improved font of notes, in immediate family and extended family: display of the county name, improvement of Gedcom ...  
For the Mac version: added occupations of spouses in descendant trees ...  
Heredis 2017 for Windows and Mac will be available on January 31, 2017 on and the App Store.
Here are the system requirements and pricing:
System Requirements
Vista to 10
500 MB of hard drive space Screen1024× 700 minimum 64 bits only.

Mac Mavericks (10.9) to Sierra (10.12) 300 MB of hard drive space Screen1024 × 700 minimum Internet connection for searches, publications, integrated maps and dashboard. 
No rate increases.
Windows: unlimited version at
US $29.99
Mac: Unlimited version at
US $49.99.
Due to the requirements of the AppStore, the Mac version does not have an update rate but a launch rate priced at US $24.99 until February 28, 2017, at 50% discount.

BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference

The 49th annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy will offer more than 100 classes, allowing participants to gain new skills and helpful information. The Conference is held on the beautiful Brigham Young University Campus in Provo, Utah every July. This year's four-day conference is scheduled for July 25 - 28, 2017 at the BYU Conference Center, Provo, Utah. 

The Conference Center is presently under construction, as it was for last year's conference. I drive by the Conference Center nearly every day as go to the BYU Family History Library and have been watching the construction. I was pretty sure the construction would not be completed by July of this year. I have attended the conference in the past and enjoyed some really interesting classes. This year, I have submitted some topics to teach at the Conference, but I know there are a lot of applicants and I haven't heard yet if any of my proposals will be accepted. I live only about five minutes away from the Conference Center so it is very convenient to go to the Conference. 

Compared to the large #RootsTech 2017 Conference, this one is relatively low-key, but the main difference is that the presenters are more focused on genealogy research. Here is a list of topics to be covered:
  • Youth and Genealogy
  • LDS Family History Callings
  • FamilySearch Family Tree
  • DNA Research
  • Google Genealogy
  • ICAPGen
  • U.S. Research
  • Methodology
  • International Research
  • Scandinavian Research
Additionally, the BYU Family History Library is open during the event and is right there on the campus of the university and you could spend some time in the second largest family history library in the world. However, Monday, July 24th, is a Utah State holiday and the Library and the rest of the University are closed. July 24th is Pioneer Day in Utah when the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. However, during the days of the Conference, if you would like a tour of the BYU Family History Library and maybe some help with research, I can probably schedule some appointments in the evenings after the conference, assuming the Library is open. We are on the academic calendar and classes are scheduled during the conference so the rest of the school will be open and running as usual. 

The weather in Provo is warm and sunny but there can be rain. Provo is about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City and there are quite a few hotels and dozens of restaurants near the campus. Provo is not particularly a walking city so you would likely need a car to get around. Provo is right next to some very high mountains and the altitude of the city varies from about 4500 feet above sea level to over 5000 feet above sea level. If you are not used to the altitude, you need to be aware that you might get more tired than usual walking around. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Building Bridges in the Air

I have been reviewing some of the online pedigrees for my remote ancestors and I commonly see people added either without any source citations or where the locations cited do not match the places where the family lived. When we are confronted with a unified family tree program, such as the Family Tree where all of the registered users have access to edit and add content, we need to be extremely careful to examine the sources and conclusions derived from those sources.

Most of the errors I find in these online family trees are like trying to build a bridge in the air. You need to start with a firm foundation before you start building the bridge out in the middle of the stream. Here is a quote from the Family Tree about one of my ancestors.
This information recently came to light--mostly from *** (name of person deleted), and then using my brain and promptings to 'organize' that information into the families as they really were.
This is what was provided rather than a source citation to any historical record. I really don't know how to respond to genealogy by "brain and promptings." I am certainly not discounting the importance of inspiration or insights, but they both usually come after a lot of hard work and research. In this particular case, no one has apparently reviewed even the records that are easily obtained and available. From my personal standpoint, I am still documenting this line starting with the previous or more recent generations. What is interesting about this comment is that the comment relates to a person who is not yet well documented from existing sources.

I would certainly agree that genealogy would be a lot easier if all I had to do was think about the families and not have to be bothered with all that messy and pesky documentation, but unfortunately, I am stuck with having done too many years of research to simply dump it all in the trash in exchange for good feelings and my "brain."

Genealogy should be source-centric. Every date and place should be supported by an evaluated and pertinent source document or record. As I have written many time before, unsupported entries in the Family Tree or any other compilation of genealogical data that is unsupported by valid sources is mere speculation.